Gig venue ordered to install soundproofing to stop noise affecting club upstairs

Audience standing at an indoor music gig at the Jam Jar venue
The Jam Jar grassroots live music venue in St Jude's -Credit:PAUL LIPPIATT/ Jam Jar

A live music venue has been ordered to install soundproofing by the end of the year to stop loud noise disturbing performers and the audience at a similar club above it. Three Nine Five Studios, which opened 15 months ago on the ground floor of a building in St Jude’s, was taken to a premises licence review hearing by its upstairs neighbour, the Jam Jar, in a bid to end the disruption.

Avon & Somerset Police and Bristol City Council ’s neighbourhood enforcement team told a panel of councillors that they had both already issued formal warnings to Three Nine Five for breaches of its licensing conditions, including failing to use a noise limiter. Hadie Abido, co-founder and director of grassroots music venue the Jam Jar in Little Ann Street, told the licensing sub-committee: “The noise from Three Nine Five disturbs our performers and the audience.

“The majority of the problem comes from music being played in a space that is not suited to it.” He said there was a lack of soundproofing in the narrow gap between the downstairs ceiling and the Jam Jar’s floor.

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Mr Abido said some artists had pulled out of performing because of the noise issues. He said: “It financially affects us when artists won’t pour out their heart and soul on stage because of bass levels from downstairs, and we are frustrated that this is affecting our reputation.

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“It is not a chicken and egg situation – the soundproofing should have been in place before it opened as a live music venue. Artists are unable to rehearse or perform in our space.”

He said the Jam Jar had been open 10 years and never previously had noise problems from the ground floor, even when it was a music studio. Bristol City Council senior pollution control officer Mark Curtis told the meeting on Thursday, May 16: “I totally agree that the main issue is the lack of sound insulation between the two properties.

“This makes it very difficult to have two music venues operating, one above the other. It relies on a lot of communication between the two parties to work it out, which I thought would be a solution to the problems but it hasn’t really worked.

“The noise is affecting the Jam Jar’s ability to run a business. The fundamental issue is the soundproofing and I can’t see anything on the table to get it resolved. It’s frustrating and I can’t see a way out of it.”

Council senior neighbourhood enforcement officer Megan Davis said she issued a formal warning to Three Nine Five in February after finding two speakers were not connected to the noise limiter. Avon & Somerset Police licensing officer Louise Mowbray said she found breaches of the licence in May 2023, just three months after it was granted, and issued a formal warning in October for further breaches over a lack of a noise limiter and security.

She told the panel: “It is concerning that a newly opened premises has received so much police attention. They have given scant regard to the licence they were granted.

“It was as if they felt, ‘We’ve got a licence, we can do what we want’. It has been run quite chaotically from day one.

“No one has really got hold of this licence and ensured the conditions are adhered to.” But she said the situation had “definitely improved” since the warning in October.

She asked the sub-committee to either restrict the licensed activities to 11pm or suspend the licence for three months to get the venue soundproofed. Solicitor Ewen Macgregor, representing Three Nine Five, said suspending the licence would effectively nullify it.

He said the dispute was a private one between two neighbouring businesses, so it was up to them to sort it out. Mr Macgregor said: “It is private nuisance rather than public nuisance that you’re being asked to deal with and that sits outside your purview as a committee.”

He said Three Nine Five had also reported noise nuisance coming from the Jam Jar into their premises. The solicitor said the venue was a community and creative arts space as well as holding gigs and that it was popular with marginalised sections of society including the LGBT+ community and sexual abuse victims who felt safe there.

He said: “There have been positive changes in recent months. Speakers have been removed from the ceiling and all speakers are connected to a noise limiter.

“My clients have never had a single complaint from residents and neither have the responsible authorities. These two premises share the same landlord and we cannot commit to install soundproofing without their consent, and this would also require assistance from the Jam Jar.”

It would cost £15,000 to carry out the work, councillors heard. Announcing the decision, sub-committee chairman Cllr Richard Eddy (Conservative, Bishopsworth) said: “We considered suspending the licence while various improvements are made but we don’t believe that would be appropriate because fundamentally the issue relates to noise pollution, and soundproofing is the necessary solution to that.

“Any suspension would handicap that by stopping income coming into your business.” He said the panel unanimously agreed that the existing conditions should be kept unchanged apart from an amendment suggested by Mr Curits to improve those about the noise limiter.

Cllr Eddy said: “We are adding a further condition – that by December 31, 2024, the premises installs soundproofing to the satisfaction of Bristol City Council’s pollution control.” Mr Abido said afterwards: “The soundproofing is the one thing we want.

“We are happy to continue communicating with Three Nine Five and we hope the relationship can improve to the point where a future review is not necessary. It is still our position that the licence is not as effective as it could be to protect neighbouring residents and businesses.”