Saint John Musician Airs Concern

Category: community 257

Longtime Saint John musician Jason Ogden speaks up about the ongoing conflict between uptown residents and bar owners.

(Google Street)
(Google Street)


I have been playing live music and attending live music events in uptown Saint John for a looooooooooong time. Longer than I care to calculate or quantify, if the truth were to be told. Over the past half a year or so, myself and my bandmates have been affected by steadily increasing noise complaints. Of course, this wasn’t the first time in over 15 years as a musician and stakeholder in uptown live entertainment that I have ever been party to a noise complaint in relation to playing or watching live music in the uptown core. But complaints were, for the most part, isolated and rare. Nothing ever came of them, because in the end, we were playing music in a business district zoned for bars and we always made sure we were shutting down when the laws dictated the bars shut down – typically 2 a.m. on a weekend.

But at some point late last year, a flurry of complaints started to come out of nowhere and became a regular thing. They occurred at different locations and different hours of the day and evening (Penny Blacks were shut down by police at 10:45 p.m. on a Friday night at one point). A small amount of investigation revealed that the lion’s share of these complaints seemed to be coming from real estate developers and new residential tenants in recently established luxury / upscale condos and apartments. These new residences are located smack dab in the middle of (and in some cases right on top of) pubs and taverns that have been fixtures in the uptown core for many, many years. Some of them predate these new developments by decades. Whoever developed the spaces above or around these licensed drinking and entertainment establishments knew exactly where they were developing. They knew exactly what goes on in a busy, lively downtown / uptown core in the evenings. Likewise, any savvy potential tenant would have done their due diligence and have been prepared for the loud music and busy, boisterous patronage that accompanies the lifestyle of living in an area defined by bars and live entertainment. Not only defined by these things historically, but breeding more of them exponentially – Eighty Three, Five and Dime and Yuk Yuks being the most recent welcome additions. Yet, they build, sell, buy and move in, and then begin to rail against the very culture that defines the area in which they chose to live. Do they have a right because they bought their way into an area and thus feel entitled to make whatever demands they see fit? Should they be allowed to bend a neighbourhood and scene to fit their needs at the expense of so many others who spent years developing it, fostering it and, further, depend on it for their livelihood, entertainment and cultural identity? Legally, it appears the answer may be yes. But for those of us who believe that Saint John is a modern, progressive city with an uptown core and nightlife just now hitting its stride – who don’t want to live in a city that shuts down at 11 p.m. on a Friday night – we must take advantage of this reassessment of the noise bylaw. Please take this opportunity to write, call or email your ward representative and tell them how you feel. We are all reasonable people – no one wants to extend the hours of music and live entertainment at bars to a ridiculous new precedent. We just want to keep it at the typical 2 a.m. curfew that most every other city observes (using the weekend as an example).

“I have no problem with luxury – but it should not be put before, or above community and culture.”

And honestly, I have to work in the mornings. I like early shows. But it’s the principle of the thing. It reminds me of an encounter I had uptown years ago while postering for a show. A couple came out of an uptown gallery and began yelling at me as I was putting a poster up on a pole. They began to berate me for “ruining the city” and citing how if they had their way, no postering would be allowed uptown because it was such an eyesore. That confrontation has always bothered me. I mean, what kind of bleak, colourless, gated community do they want? The kind where art is confined to the walls and business hours of their expensive galleries and if anything they don’t deem palatable or “artistic” should find its way out into a public space it should be removed and a fine issued?

One of the most awesome things about this city is the feeling that it is still a blank canvas; There’s this feeling like you can make things happen. That crap that happened with the posters, and what’s going on right now – it’s killing that spirit in favour of luxury and homogenization. I have no problem with luxury – but it should not be put before, or above community and culture.

Contact info for Saint John mayor Don Darling and all ward councilors can be found here.

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