New party zone plan invite only

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A proposal to lasso noisy Queenstown bars into a separate party zone has left pub bosses fuming. 

A noise expert is recommending to Queenstown Lakes District Council that the CBD’s “more lively” bars and restaurants should be contained within an “entertainment precinct” with a higher decibel limit than presently allowed. 

The “most likely” location for this is between Cow Lane and Searle Lane to the south of Camp Street, says Dr Stephen Chiles, from engineering and environmental consultancy URS New Zealand. 

He’s suggesting bars within that area are granted a 65 decibel sound barrier after 10pm, but many pubs and restaurants outside the proposed zone couldn’t exceed 50dB – which could even prevent customers from talking outside. 

The move has enraged some local publicans facing potential restrictions.

“We are extremely concerned about the pro­posal,” says Roy Thompson, director of Frenzi Group, which owns Pog Mahones Irish Bar on Rees St. 

“Naturally we think our part of Rees St should be included in the precinct. We’ve been in that location since 1998 – as have Surreal, opening just after us – so we’re long-established businesses. 

“We are right in the heart of town. If we’re not in the late-night zone, I don’t know who is. 

“Searle Lane is, what, two metres away from visitor accommodation. There’re inconsistencies all over [the proposal].” 

Steamer Wharf’s Atlas Beer Cafe owner Davey McKenzie agrees: “It lacks foresight … where that new bar precinct is has got more hotels and people staying in that area – why are they allowing them to have a louder decibel rating? I think there could be a better precinct area …” 

Christchurch-based Dux de Lux owner Richard Sinke says he’ll fight any move to shut him out of the resort’s prime night-time scene. 

“It would probably have very detrimental effects on our business,” he says. 

Chiles’s report is “to assist” QLDC prepare a district plan change to tackle “town centre noise issues”. 

The CBD’s noise after 10pm is limited to 50dB – but “many bars …regularly breach the night-time limit”, he says. 

“The [district] plan doesn’t provide methods to allow a party town at the same time as allowing residential activity in the town centre.” 

The two sectors are incompatible, and regulator Lakes Environ­mental “struggles” to control downtown noise. 

Chiles suggests the 50dB night-noise limit for the rest of the CBD should remain as is to protect nearby residential and visitor accommodation neighbourhoods – and “restrictions” should be imposed on those establishments after 10pm. 

He also advises new residential/visitor accommodation should be “discouraged” inside the precinct, and complexes going up outside it should have sound insulation similar to buildings near airports.

Outside looking in: what they say 

James Apicella,
Pub On Wharf manager

“Obviously it’s not going to help all the other bars in town as a unit. If we get to the point where we couldn’t have our live music or we couldn’t have any kind of trade we’d be worried.” 

Roy Thompson,
Frenzi Group (Pog Mahones) director

“Nobody, to the best of my knowledge, has complained about noise emanating from Pog Mahones for probably nine years. So if we were to be hit with increased restrictions at this stage, I think it would be absolutely ludicrous.” 

Davey McKenzie,
Atlas Beer Cafe owner

“It lacks foresight … where that new bar precinct is has got more hotels and people staying in that area – why are they allowing them to have a louder decibel rating? I think there could be a better precinct area – I suggest Steamer Wharf. It is the perfect precinct because it’s out of the way.”