In Vancouver, the City Noise Control Bylaw 6555 contains a number of clauses that apply to pubs and clubs. The most onerous of these is that the level of noise originating from the entertainment venue received in a bedroom or living room of a dwelling sharing a common partition with the commercial premises is no higher than 55 dBC. This level of noise is broadly similar to the level of traffic noise audible in a downtown dwelling close to a relatively busy street. This condition provides some protection to the occupants of residential suite, but does not result in inaudibility, or anything close. The bass beat will still be clearly audible. However, as it stands the venue is obliged to do no more than to comply with the 55 dBC noise limit.
Over the past five years or so, the City Licensing Department has required an acoustic assessment for the operation of extended hour’s liquor establishments, new premises and pubs re-focussing as music venues. This assessment must address the relevant clauses of the noise bylaw, and to qualify for the extended hours license, it has to demonstrate that noise transmission from the premises to an adjacent dwelling does not exceed 55 dBC. For most of the venues applying for this extension in hours, meeting 55 dBC requires the installation of an heavy dropped ceiling in the venue to help control noise transmission to suites above. It may also require that the maximum output of the sound system is limited by using a form of noise limiter – either an electronic or software based compression system.
In Vancouver, a significant proportion of licensed establishments are housed in buildings which were originally cheap hotels with boarding rooms above. The pubs now invariably play music at levels of between 105 and 110 dBC. What were boarding rooms now tend to be SRO’s (Single Room Occupancies) or low-cost hotel rooms inhabited by people with little disposable income. If no extended hours application is made, then it is not incumbent on the licensed premises to demonstrate that it is compliant with the Noise Control Bylaw. As a consequence, many of the SRO’s or hotel rooms are subject to high noise levels until 1am or 2am. Nevertheless, if complaints are received in relation to noise emissions from a pub or club, the City will require the premises to seek advice from an acoustic consultant for the purpose of complying with the bylaw.
So, Vancouver is a city where there is only partial noise protection for residents who share a building with a licensed premises as only those with extended hours need demonstrate compliance. The quantitative bylaw limit is in effect less restrictive than qualitative clauses contained within noise bylaws in other Canadian municipalities and the quantitative noise criteria contained in planning legislation in the UK.