You can stop the music: Floating nightclub ordered to keep the volume down

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Melbourne’s first floating nightclub has been told to permanently turn down the music after the council received a barrage of noise complaints from residents since it opened late last year.

The City of Melbourne voted to issue a notice of default on its planning permit to Atet nightclub in Docklands after an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigation deemed the venue had consistently exceeded reasonable noise levels.

The 570-square-metre barge – inspired by European open-air parties – will have to reduce its music volume to “background” level or make significant changes to the venue and operating model to comply with its licence agreement.

Atet owner Jake Hughes said he was blindsided by council’s decision after six months of “positive” talks aimed at resolving the issues.

“We’ve always been so willing to work with Melbourne City Council. It’s obvious the weight of the pressure from complaints has become too much for the council,” Hughes said.

Hughes said the club was due to move further up the wharf by mid-year after talks with the council and Development Victoria.

Atet owner Jake Hughes. The City of Melbourne has moved a motion to issue a breach notice on the club’s permit.Credit: Joe Armao

“We never intended to be in this location and so close to residents,” he said.

“Our plan was to operate here short term until we could move further up the harbour and away from apartment buildings. It’s now mid-year and we are still in the same place.”

The City of Melbourne said it considered relocation a possibility, but Development Victoria said the nightclub’s move to the western end of the North Wharf was off the table until the end of the year.

“We are currently in the process of procuring a contractor to undertake works at the western end of North Wharf in Docklands,” said Development Victoria’s group head for precincts, Niall Cunningham.

“While Atet nightclub has expressed interest moving to the western end of North Wharf, these works would have to be completed before any access applications could be considered.”

Docklands resident Jo Taylor welcomed Atet’s noise restriction but said the damage to her health had already been done.

“My health has been destroyed,” the 41-year-old IT worker said. “The bass coming from the club every weekend is intrusive and constant – you can hear it when you’re trying to sleep.”

The nightclub operates on Friday through to Sunday and closes at 1am on Fridays and Saturdays. The venue said it turns the music down a few hours before close.

Docklands resident Jo Bacon welcomes the council’s move against Atet.Credit: Joe Armao

A previous City of Melbourne noise assessment of the venue and effects on nearby apartments found Atet was not in breach of any noise protocols set by the EPA.

However, a three-month investigation by noise scientists from the EPA that concluded in May found the venue had unreasonable and multiple exceedances of noise and clear non-compliances.

“All you hear is the bass vibrating in the apartment and you can feel it in your body,” said Taylor. “No noise-cancelling headphones or earplug work on bass.”

Lord Mayor Sally Cap acknowledged the noise had an impact on residents who have been complaining for the past seven months.

The City of Melbourne says relocation is a possibility for Atet.Credit: Joe Armao

“Since its launch, we have received a record number of complaints regarding Atet and its impact on the area,” she said.

“We have heard the community’s concerns and have been continuing to work closely with the business owner and relevant authorities to address these issues.”

Hughes said he has already invested $2 million into the business and faced setbacks in operations including a “traumatising” fire at the start of the year, which is under investigation by police.

Despite this, Hughes said the venue’s popularity as a live music venue and popular brunch spot for revellers was a show of confidence for the nightclub industry in Melbourne.

“We’ve created an environment to enjoy and outdoor daytime atmosphere, like in Europe,” he said.

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