An ongoing feud between Seven Mile Beach condominium owners and late-night bars along the strip has been turned down a notch after a decision by the Liquor Licensing Board to set an acceptable late-night noise level.
Owners representing beach-front condos Seagull, Cayman Reef, Harbour Heights, The Great House and The Avalon met with bar owners at the board’s quarterly session last week and pointed out that the current Liquor Licensing Law was not protecting the rights of beach residents.
Under the Towns and Communities Law (1995 Revision) “any person who makes any noise in any town or district which is likely to cause annoyance or discomfort to any inhabitant of that town or district, after having been required by a constable to desist from making such noise, is guilty of an offence.”
But residents state the law is vague and does not set a standard for acceptable bass levels coming from DJs at late-night parties.
A statement from the board on Friday announced, “that decibel levels, acceptable to Calico Jack’s, Surfside and the residents in close proximity, must now be set and agreed on.”
“The Liquor Inspector has been assigned this task and will continue to monitor sound levels in the meantime,” the statement said.
Draft changes to the Liquor Licensing Law could be completed as early as next month after a review by the Department of Commerce and Investment.
Inspector of Licensed Premises Gavin Dixon said the issue of noise complaints had deepened because of a shift in music trends to high-bass house music that resulted in complaints about low-end or bass sounds rather than pitch or volume.
“Because it’s not legislated properly in the law at all, it’s new water that I’ve been treading in,” Mr. Dixon said. “Hopefully, with the new law, something can be put out that can remove the grey area.”
Mr. Dixon said setting an acceptable level was simply a case of trial and error.
Currently, he has set Calico Jack’s with a low-end or bass reading of 67 to 82 decibels at the edge of the Harbour Heights property and has been working with Royal Palms Beach Club to keep the bass level between 55 and 65 decibels at the property line, with a five-decibel cushion for songs that may play louder.
“Right now, things are tough for businesses,” Mr. Dixon said. “We don’t want to put any business in a place that would hurt them.”
Royal Palms sound manager Keegan Galt, also known as DJ XiXgon, was hired last month, tasked with the responsibility of monitoring the venue’s sound levels.
Mr. Galt monitors bass levels and does routine checks every 30 minutes at the property line and at the venue’s kitchen, located opposite the DJ booth.
He said he had set a standard level that all DJs performing at the venue had to adhere to – or they would be banned from performing – and is also training two more employees in his role.
Liquor Licensing Board chairman Mitchell Welds said if an acceptable level could be agreed upon, it could be set as a condition on a premise’s liquor license.
“Let’s see what’s going to happen, this may be a resolution to the problem,” Mr. Welds said.
Harbour Heights Council of Management Director Bob Loverd said the quality of life and financial health of condominium owners had been increasingly impaired by late-night music events along Seven Mile Beach because the current law was “toothless” and had “an ancient charm to it.”
“The noise pollution that is occurring at Royal Palms and in the areas on and around the public beach is highly evident not just to residents but also to tourists,” Mr. Loverd said. “We are confident that the government, the tourist board and the Liquor Licensing Board want to ensure that no guest ever regrets visiting this beautiful island.”
The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service was called to Calico Jack’s twice during this month’s Cayman Island’s Winter Music Festival following noise complaints but found no problem with noise once they got to the bar.
Owner of Calico Jack’s Handel Whittaker said he had made 11 trips to the Harbour Heights parking lot on the Friday night of the festival to monitor bass levels with sound equipment he had borrowed from the liquor inspector.
“Sometimes, due to the wind factor, noise travels and you can hear it at Harbour Heights, other times it goes out to sea,” Mr. Whittaker said. “There are some times the music has been a bit out of hand but we have tried our best to change that.
“This is 2014. This is the music of the day that carries that kind of sound.”
Mr. Whittaker said he was happy to comply with any levels set by the Liquor Licensing Board.
“Everything we do at Calico Jack’s is within the law,” he said.