Noise pollution in Bratislava is set to be targeted by a new decree issued from the Old Town district mayor. But despairing musicians say the order will strangle the town's burgeoning music and entertainment scene.
The order will give a federal body authority to decide if Old Town bars and restaurants are producing an unacceptable level of noise after 22:00. City officials said they could not explain how the rule would be enforced in practice.
Old Town spokesman Milan Vajda said the decree, which will be effective from January 1, 2002, was issued in response to residents' complaints. But he admitted that restaurant and bar owners were unhappy with mayoral decision.
He said: "Proprietors argue unconvincingly that we want stop music and fun in the Old Town, but that's absurd. Since 1995 we have been trying to introduce entertainment. But the noise levels must be regulated.
"Surely proprietors want to get along with their neighbouring residents. It has not always been the case that they have.
"This decree is not about banning music, but I am not sure if discos and night clubs belong in what is also a residential area.
"From January 2002 a late license will not be issued to any bar or restaurant unless they can prove that they can comply with the new regulations.
"If they are found by the state hygiene department with responsibility for enforcing and monitoring the decree, to be in breach of it, they will be investigated by the police and may eventually face a stiff fine or even lose their license."
Vadja admits that the Old Town faces a conflict of interests between commercial establishments and residents since its redevelopment in the mid 1990s. But he insists the rights of residents to a good night's sleep are paramount.
Musician John Dale, who plays with a number of well known live bands, said he was not against residents and could appreciate the difficulties they might face. But he said the council must accept that if Bratislava is to develop a vibrant and successful entertainment scene, it should approach the problem differently.
He said: "On the one hand they want to promote music, but on the other they are making an often badly paid profession even more difficult.
"I can't believe they want to stop live music at 10pm, it's just madness. They should have done more research. This is a very serious threat to live music and entertainment.
"It's only in the last two years that people have got into the idea of a quality band playing in Bratislava. The new decree will force owners to buy expensive equipment, and the people who will suffer because of that are the musicians who will find that the costs are taken out of their wages.
"I think the council should have looked at this differently. Rather than prohibiting music they should have considered providing the residents with sound proof windows. There are two approaches to every problem and I think the council went for the wrong one.
"There are a lot of issues that still need to be thought out and resolved, but the council should consider carefully what they are doing. This decree has the potential to ruin entertainment in Old Town. I can't think any other European city that would sacrifice their financially lucrative tourist industry in this way."
Mayor Andrej Ďurkovský said: "We cannot please everyone. After many years the Old Town is once again a leading area for culture and entertainment in the spirit of its best traditions.
"For many years we have put our efforts into resurrection. However, the time has come when similar attention needs to be paid to the living conditions of its citizens. "And therefore we have we have decided to accept these measures for the protection of citizens against excessive noise."
15. Oct 2001 at 0:00 | Deirdre Tynan