Chord and effect: Are we killing what makes the inner-city great?

DOM Venue Soundproof Dave Kerr Beaufort BB. Dave Kerr, owner of The Beaufort in Carlton, 20th October 2017. For a story on Victorian Government grants for owners to soundproof their venues. Photo by Eliana Schoulal Dave Kerr, owner of The Beaufort in Carlton, 20th October 2017. For a story on government grants for owners to soundproof their venues in light of ongoing neighbour news complaints. Photo by Eliana Schoulal
Owner of The Beaufort bar Dave Kerr
DOM Venue Soundproof Dave Kerr Beaufort BB. Dave Kerr, owner of The Beaufort in Carlton, 20th October 2017. For a story on Victorian Government grants for owners to soundproof their venues. Photo by Eliana Schoulal Dave Kerr, owner of The Beaufort in Carlton, 20th October 2017. For a story on government grants for owners to soundproof their venues in light of ongoing neighbour news complaints. Photo by Eliana Schoulal Owner of The Beaufort bar Dave Kerr

There are few things that enrage lovers of Melbourne's live music scene quite like pub neighbours who complain about noise.

Often, they're new arrivals in the neighbourhood who like the area so much they decide to move, but then find the "novelty" of a 2am gig soon wears off.

In the wake of these neighbour complaints, venues like Collingwood's The Tote Hotel, Fitzroy's The Night Cat and Richmond's The Corner Hotel have been forced to renovate or risk being fined or shut down.

And despite recent state government grants to encourage venues to soundproof, experts warn the uncomfortable relationship between live music venues and apartment towers will worsen.

"The danger is that the increased residential development in and around the inner city will make it very difficult to have or sustain live music venues, because of the sheer weight of people that might be bothered by noise," urban renewal advocate Marcus Westbury said.

The state government now offers bar owners grants of up to $25,000 in a bid to curb the noises from live music venues: an add-on to changes it implemented to planning laws in 2014.

The rights of music venues are protected in high density and developing residential areas by requiring new residential buildings within 50 metres to cover the cost of soundproofing or other measures. Grant recipients this year include The Tote Hotel, Ding Dong Lounge and Loop bar in the city, Bar Open in Fitzroy and The Beaufort in Carlton, gifted nearly $14,000 for acoustic treatment to ceilings, walls and doors

The Beaufort owner Dave Kerr said the grant would allow him to ramp up its live music offerings. Mr Kerr sees the evolution as a necessity to compete with a slew of similar bars.

"We were the first pretentious, hipster dive bar in town," said Mr Kerr. "There's since been more than a handful of a very similar ilk. We needed to diversify our business offering, and the most natural thing for us was to move towards live music. It's always been the missing link for us to make the venue go from a break even point to profitability."

Mr Kerr tried to introduce more live music early last year but it was not until receiving the grant this year that he was able to put on a diverse range of bands, giving live acts "the ability to thrash a drum kit a little harder and turn the sound up a little bit".

He said the grants were less about saving or protecting live music venues, and more about allowing them to thrive. But he's now more concerned about the noise from the flow of patrons after events.

"The challenge for us comes from upstairs, from residents living directly above us. There is an increasing amount of people living in the area and there's definitely higher density."

Mr Westbury said the state government's planning changes were a step in the right direction, but finding the balance between increased inner-city development and providing enough entertainment space was an ongoing challenge for urban planners.

"One of the bigger risks further down the track is when you get more residential venues, where are the next range of live music venues going to come from?" Mr Westbury said.

An influx of downsizers toward the city have contributed to the clash between densification and inner city culture.

Biggin and Scott Richmond director Andrew Crotty said people moving into inner Melbourne needed to be realistic about city living.

"There's no point in complaining about a noisy pub if you've bought an apartment over a noisy pub," Mr Crotty said. "My advice is if you're looking at buying, do your due diligence on the house and the area itself."

A spokeswoman for the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation said it had powers to investigate noise complaints about licensed premises, including noise being made by patrons leaving the venue, if the noise was deemed to be detrimental to the quality of the area.

This story Chord and effect: Are we killing what makes the inner-city great? first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.