By Bejay Browne
ANOTHER tourist season and another year has almost passed without authorities managing to sort out the decades-old problem of noise pollution in Paphos as venues try to drown each other out, police officers judge sound levels by ear, and residents in some areas are bombarded with a mish-mash of competing music.
Everyone agrees something needs to be done but the simplest solution, the use of decibel meters that would at least establish a bottom-line, is still at the debate stage. In the meantime arbitrary decisions are being made by police, and some venue owners often use the lack of standard rules to cause problems for a rival.
The non-use of decibel meters in Cyprus has long been the subject of debate, with music venues pushing for changes to the law to ensure that the meters will be legally used by police and other officials. They say this would help both venue owners and police to keep music at an acceptable level.
Currently, police in Cyprus are not furnished with meters, although many venue owners do use them to keep track of their own levels.
Paphos police spokesman Nicos Tsappis said: “We act on information received and according to the statement of the policeman who is there as to how loud the music is, we act accordingly. It would be much easier for the police if we had decibel meters, and hopefully that will happen soon.”
Venue owners agree, as they say this would provide a guideline and parameters for acceptable noise levels.
Tony Theo, whose premises ‘Chalkies’ is on the busy Coral Bay strip, home to the area’s nightlife, was recently the scene of a fire which authorities believe may have been started deliberately and are investigating as possible arson, said that he would welcome input from the various authorities. He has called on the municipalities in the district and the police to meet with venue owners to come up with a set of guidelines which would be acceptable for all.
“Police coming round is an ongoing problem for everyone. Jealous bar owners call the police on neighbouring bars and problems arise.” Theo has run bars in the area for the last eight years and said that the introduction of decibel meters would be a sensible development.
“We also need to agree what time the music has to stop some places run on until 2.30am when their licence is only until 1.30 am. The authorities also need to find a way to grant specific live music licences at particular levels and if they allow everyone to play music next to each other, like now, it’s not music- it’s just noise.”
He pointed out that if every venue complied with the terms of their licence then problems surrounding noise pollution would be considerably better. He admitted: “We have been fined once this season, but we always try to comply with the regulations of our license.”
Peyia councillor, Linda Leblanc, lives half a kilometre away from the Coral Bay ‘strip’ and said that despite ongoing complaints from residents and holidaymakers about excessive noise levels, there has been no change to loud music levels this year.
“I have to have my windows shut and what they are doing is illegal. When the police drive by the music is turned down and then as soon as they’ve passed it’s turned back up again,” she said.
She said that the Coral Bay strip is an onslaught of horrific noise with at least six venues competing with live shows and karaoke. “What kind of customers does that attract; it’s not adding to the quality of life or tourism in Peyia. The strip is getting like Bar Street in Kato Paphos used to be.”
She said that the problem was now creeping into other areas of Peyia where there were bars in residential areas.
“Visitors rent holiday villas and apartments and the area is being promoted as a family destination as it’s close to the sea. Damage is being caused and venue owners don’t seem to understand the problem.”
The councillor said nothing had been done about proposals to curb noise and set proper parameters for businesses. “They don’t even have decibel meters, it’s still down to a policeman standing outside and judging if the music is too loud or not.”
Neil Hart has owned and operated Britannia bar which is in the tourist area in Kato Paphos, for almost two years. He said that he has a music licence until 3am, but ensures music stops at 12pm, which he believes is a fair time, out of respect for people trying to sleep.
“We have live music six nights a week and our licence stipulates we can have it until 3am, but we don’t do this. But we have had police coming at 11pm this year- my music plays between 9pm- 12pm – which is early, to warn me to turn it down.”
He said that officers standing outside and deciding if music is too loud is a ridiculous way of attempting to implement the law.
“We need guidelines as there is no law. During the summer, every bar in the whole of Cyprus would be breaking the law if a policeman stood outside to see if he could hear the music. I would welcome with open arms the use of decibel meters, at least the limits would be set then.”
Hart agreed that only suitable venues should be granted music licences and that there should be defined rules applying to different areas such as entertainment and residential.
“On one hand the CTO is in the press saying our tourist model is broken and needs to be fixed and yet they are hammering the entertainment industry, which is what people want when they come on holiday.”
He said: “We need a meeting with the CTO, the police, the authorities and bar owners to set guidelines which would be helpful, without them coming in so heavy handily.”
He added that it was embarrassing for bar owners with full venues, when police storm in shouting at the owner and taking the speakers. “How does this look to visitors here?”
Tsappis confirmed that a number of police operations to curb noise pollution had already got underway in Paphos this summer.
“We are continuing to make operations concerning noise and if one venue is very often having loud music, we will confiscate the equipment.”
The police are patrolling during the night and making constant checks, he pointed out.
“I think the police may have been stricter this year, but the official statistics aren’t completed as yet. A number of times we have undertaken noise pollution operations involving members of MMAD and police from the headquarters in Nicosia. There have been three or four this month.”
Leblanc said that one way to curb complaints, especially from tourists, many of who have informed her that they won’t be coming back is to enclose venues.
“I propose that these bars should enclose their venues and air condition them. This way they can have loud music and not everyone has to listen to the mish- mash of sound.”