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Sleep ‘decimated’ by bar blasting music, court told

A neighbour of one of Dublin’s best-known gay bars has told a court his night’s sleep was “decimated” by the venue playing “thumping” club music and blasting Whitney Houston or Celine Dion’s hits.

Tommy Bergin, who lives with his wife in an apartment above the popular Street 66 bar on Parliament Street, lodged an objection to its music, singing, and dancing licences.

The case was heard at Dublin District Court by Judge Marie Quirke, who oversees public houses in the capital.

The judge noted expert witnesses gave evidence that the building was not ideal for the co-location of apartments and a late-night venue.

She granted the renewal of the licences on the condition that the premises implemented a ten-decibel drop in the music levels, noting that there was no empirical evidence that this would affect business. The judge also ordered both parties to meet every four months.

Describing it as an “unfortunate situation”, she said the Bergins were entitled to peace and quiet. However, she accepted that the bar owner, Siobhan Conmy, had also bought the venue in good faith and her evidence that she would do everything required.

The judge refused to change the bar’s special exemptions, allowing late-night opening two nights at the weekend.

Dublin City Council employee Mr Bergin and his wife Mai moved into an apartment in 2021.

Mr Bergin said the problem began in early 2022 when the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted.

Music ‘like an earthquake’

He said the music now coming from the bar was “like an earthquake” and much louder than before.

He could not sleep despite using noise-cancelling headphones. He said that even if he turned his television to full volume, “you could still hear the blast of Celine Dion and Whitney Houston”.

He told his barrister, Conor Duff, that the music was “thumping every night” and also included club-style tunes, and the effect was that “my sleep pattern was absolutely decimated.” He could not sleep before 3am and had to be at work six hours later.

The bar stays open until midnight from Monday to Thursday and until 3am at the weekends.

Asked about the music volume, his wife Mai told the court: “The walls trembled”.

She could give the court the bar’s playlist: “A lot of Taylor Swift, Celine Dion, Britney Spears doing ‘Toxic’ at one, two or three, and Whitney Houston and ‘Psycho Killer'”.

Ms Bergin said the night would often end with Ike and Tina Turner’s version of Proud Mary.

“The walls were shaking”, and it felt like being in a nightclub, she said.

Another witness who lived in the apartments over the bar also agreed the volume had gone up. He told the court he had to switch to night shifts at work so he could sleep in the daytime.

Sound levels almost halved

During the case management stages of the proceedings, the court ordered sound experts from each side to carry out a joint assessment. They differed by two decibels on how much the sound level needed to be reduced.

The venue’s audio expert, Diarmuid Keaney, recommended reducing the volume limit at one part of the bar from 88 to 80 decibels, which he said had almost halved the maximum sound level.

Mr Bergin’s audio consultant, Ted Dalton, believed the limit should be 78 decibels in the front bar and 86 decibels in the back.

Owner Siobhan Conmy said her bar, which was called the Front Lounge until 2016, was a fun premises that plays chart music. She said it was an LGBT bar and had that feel about it since 1995.

She agreed with her counsel, Dorothy Collins, that she had paid €52,000 for modifications.

The court heard she removed six bass speakers from the bar, installed air conditioning so windows and doors could be kept closed, and soundproofing upgrades had been carried out.

Judge Quirke ordered that the new maximum music volume be limited to the levels recommended by Mr Bergin’s expert witness.

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