For those who live along the mixed-residential and commercial area of the Village Stroll, late-night noise can be a major concern, especially for residents located near one of Whistler’s six nightclubs.
For Suzanna Han, a Burnaby resident who spends part of the year in her condominium near Garfinkel’s, noisy patrons gathering outside Whistler’s largest nightclub have remained a concern since her and her husband purchased the property six years ago.
“I understand that it’s a half-commercial, half-residential area, but there is a bylaw and we all need to abide by them. This is a problem that I’ve faced and I don’t know what to do anymore. The only solution that I came to was that Garfinkel’s be removed from this area, it’s not a nightclub area,” said Han, who sent a letter to the municipality outlining her concerns, which was read at last Tuesday’s (Nov. 20) council meeting.
Current bylaws prohibits any amplified music or speech in any neighbourhood between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., with RCMP officers responsible for patrolling the stroll after bylaw officers end their shifts in the early evening.
“I’d like to see more manpower from the municipality during those evening hours or move Garfinkel’s to somewhere else,” said Han, who rents out her condo to visitors and said she has lost business over the continued noise disturbances.
Han said she called and wrote to the RCMP for several months before the 2010 Olympics complaining about the noise in hopes that some action would be taken. She claimed an officer was eventually sent to the area, but not before the RCMP allegedly told her “they don’t have the manpower to stroll that area” and suggested she install thicker windows to minimize the sound.
RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair countered this claim, saying that there’s more than enough manpower to deal with noise concerns in the Village, with 10 to 12 officers patrolling the area on weekends and five officers on weekdays.
“If there’s any noise complaint the police will attend to that complaint at the time and deal with the situation,” he added.
After she was unsatisfied with the response she received from Whistler’s council in 2009 after sending several letters to municipal staff, Han decided to take the issue up with her strata, eventually leading to representatives from Garfinkel’s and the strata to meet and discuss steps they could take to mitigate noise.
Garfinkel’s representatives allegedly promised to expedite patrons’ entry and exits from the club. After a few months of relative quiet, Han said the noise levels went back to normal, and she claimed that similar efforts to sit down with Garfinkel’s proprietors since then have proven unsuccessful.
With a new mayor and council elected last year, Han saw an opportunity to raise the issue once again, following what she considered a lukewarm response from municipal officials in years past.
“The municipality has been working with the bar and nightclub group along with the RCMP and Tourism Whistler for quite a number of years. There’s a Good Neighbour Agreement that bars enter into when they either get their liquor licenses initially or they apply to change them, so we’ve had a proactive approach for many years but periodically there are complaints,” said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.
The Good Neighbour Agreement is a commitment among bar and nightclub owners to keep noise levels down, to ensure the timely dispersal of patrons at closing time and to avoid over-serving intoxicated customers.
“The proprietor of the nightclub itself will be spoken to if they haven’t been already just to bring to their attention that there are complaints emanating from their nightclub in particular. Unfortunately, it’s the nature of the Village with nightclubs and residential accommodations above them,” she said, highlighting the fact that several Village nightclubs, including Garfinkel’s, are constructed underground in order to keep noise emanating from inside to “a dull roar.”
The local RCMP work with the town’s six nightclub owners to go over noise mitigation techniques, which LeClair said involved bouncers making face to face contact with patrons as they leave to remind them that they’re in a residential area.
Village nightclubs are handcuffed to a certain extent, considering they have no authority to control patrons once they’ve left the immediate premises and can only urge them to stay quiet.
“The issue is that Garfinkel’s can’t do anything about it, the bylaw officers aren’t there to do anything, the RCMP doesn’t have the manpower to do anything about it, so why have these noise bylaws?” asked an incredulous Han, who said her neighbours have complained to the RCMP and municipal officials over the years as well. “If I had a party at my unit and it went past 10 p.m. and someone made a complaint, the strata would send someone and they would fine me. But who is there to fine these people on the stroll who are drunk, who are making a nuisance of themselves?”
LeClair, who said Garfinkel’s has not been a major source of noise complaints in the community compared to other nightclubs in the Village, urged residents to report any noise complaints they may have to the RCMP immediately, so it can be dealt with as soon as possible and accurately tracked by officers.
Representatives from Garfinkel’s nightclub did not respond to The Question’s request for comment.