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Eat Streat Rotorua’s Urban Gusto sounds off at noise limits

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The co-owner of a busy Rotorua bar and eatery slapped with a noise warning says it has lost business because of regulations he believes are “impossible” to comply with.

Urban Gusto, which also operates as a nightclub, is one of more than a dozen businesses located in popular lakefront dining precinct Eat Streat.

Urban Gusto co-owner Perry Singh said the business was issued a Rotorua Lakes Council excessive noise direction for breaching a 65-decibel limit just after 10pm on January 6 – a “busy Saturday night”.

The council says the limit is the same for everyone – residents and businesses – and aligns with Resource Management Act principles.

But Singh said the noise at the time amounted to “natural sounds” for the business, and turning off its music to prove a point to council contractors made the business lose its “flow of traffic”.

“We had turned everything off and my reader was still reading 72 [decibels] without us talking.”

In Singh’s view, 65 decibels was “an impossible number” for the hospitality venue at any time of day.

In his view: “The natural ambient sound of Eat Streat and this place Tutanekai St and Pukaki St is gonna be louder than 65 [decibels].”

Singh said his venue holds about 200 people. When it operated as a nightclub, the DJ was on from 10pm.

Urban Gusto co-owner Perry Singh says noise decibel regulations made by Rotorua Lakes Council are "impossible". Photo / Andrew Warner
Urban Gusto co-owner Perry Singh says noise decibel regulations made by Rotorua Lakes Council are “impossible”. Photo / Andrew Warner

Singh said the noise restrictions prevented his business from growing and attracting locals and tourists.

In his view, the council was not “trying to better us”, he said.

As Singh spoke to the Rotorua Daily Post inside his near-empty restaurant before lunch, he had his personal decibel reader on the table.

“As you can see, we are talking right now, it’s spiking from 67 to 80 to 77 to 60, 76,” Singh said.

He said he struggled to believe it when he was served with the warning.

“I thought they were taking the p***, it’s just a joke.”

Singh said Urban Gusto had been operating for eight months.

“We’re a new fresh face in the game. We’ve given another [nightclub] option to the Rotorua locals and tourists.”

“Everything’s been going sweet and then now we’re running into this regulation”.

Singh said he wanted to see the noise limit raised to 75 decibels to reflect a working hospitality environment.

Noise rules in Rotorua

The Rotorua District Plan requires CBD restaurants and bars to comply with a decibel level considered to be about the volume of a moderate conversation.

The plan said decibel readings by council contractors were taken from the average level over 15 minutes.

A council spokesman said officers responding to a complaint would assess the noise, based on time of day, volume and tone.

A verbal warning may be issued on the first visit, with an excessive noise direction the next step.

If another noise complaint was made within 72 hours of the direction, equipment could be seized and a $500 instant fine could be issued.

The limit in Rotorua city centre zones and most commercial zones, including Eat Streat, was 65 decibels from 7am to 10pm on any day except public holidays, and 60 decibels at all other times.

Rotorua Lakes Council responds

Rotorua Lakes Council group manager community and district development Jean-Paul Gaston said noise limits “apply to everyone, whether you’re a business operator or a resident”.

“The limits that apply to Mr Singh’s businesses, are the same for all other similar businesses in that part of the city”.

Gaston said during the “last few months” the council had received and addressed “14 noise complaints related to Eat Streat”.

Gaston said noise limits set in the Rotorua District Plan aligned with the principles of the Resource Management Act 1991.

Rotorua Lakes Council district development deputy chief executive Jean-Paul Gaston. Photo / Andrew Warner
Rotorua Lakes Council district development deputy chief executive Jean-Paul Gaston. Photo / Andrew Warner

Asked whether the council would consider reevaluating its 65-decibel limit, he said the council had no plans to review the noise limits and changing them could take “two or more years”.

“We’re open to meeting with Mr Singh to discuss this matter further,” Gaston said.

‘Strict regulations’ affecting hospitality industry

Speaking generally, Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said it was concerned about hospitality business’ “sustainability” nationwide as they faced “strict regulations, especially regarding noise in social settings”.

Bidois said noise complaints and regulations relating to noise control were not “uncommon”.

“These areas often experience a higher concentration of hospitality businesses, and as a result, noise complaints may arise from residents and from time to time other businesses in the vicinity.”

Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois was concerned about the “sustainability of hospitality business" when faced with strict regulations.
Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois was concerned about the “sustainability of hospitality business” when faced with strict regulations.

She said it was important to address noise concerns but also “essential that regulations take into account the unique nature of hospitality”.

Bidois said hospitality businesses needed to “operate in a social and vibrant manner” and authorities should balance “responsible regulation” and “supporting the economic viability” of establishments.

Other bars and restaurants in Eat Streat were approached for comment.

Michaela Pointon is an NZME reporter based in the Bay of Plenty and was formerly a feature writer.



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