How to address neighbourhood conflicts and noise complaints? 

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Fuse Nightclub 1997
photographed by Frédéric Leemans

Sustainable and innovative approaches to addressing noise complaints and other neighbourhood conflicts. Nightlife greatly enriches the urban environment and is essential to the urban culture, social development and the economy. Unfortunately, nightlife is not always considered an asset but a nuisance. 

Just this week, another venue, this time in Brussels, Belgium, has been forced to close after 29 years of existence. Fuse, Belgium’s longest-running techno club, has received an order from Brussels Regional Administration  (Brussel Leefmilieu/ Bruxelles Environnement), the immediate demand to play music at a maximum of 95 dB and to close its doors at 2:00 am. It is impossible to open a club under these restrictions. Therefore the club will remain closed from today.

Despite substantial work to prevent a closing, a complaint from a neighbour who bought an adjacent house some years ago is the leading cause of this cessation of activity. Employing ten people during the week and 80 employees during the weekend, all these jobs are now under immediate threat.

“The closure of Fuse is one of the biggest cultural losses Brussels has seen in years… With nearly 30 years of existence, Fuse Club is Belgium’s longest-running techno club and one of the most prestigious nightclubs in Europe. Bringing international DJs, musicians, and thousands of people from all over the world together every weekend, Fuse has always kept raising Brussels’ profile as a European nightlife and cultural hub. Doing so, throughout the years, it has become a vital contributor to Brussels’ influence in Belgium and abroad. 

Besides, not only is it a terrible loss for the reasons mentioned above, but if this comes through, it could create a precedent that could have dangerous repercussions on the rest of the nightlife sector in Brussels. All clubs are involved in neighbour struggles, and without proper « Agents of Change » measures, this won’t ever stop. I fear this decision will open the door to endangering situations with more clubs”

Romain Baudson from Brussels By Night Federation  

Issues commonly arise between nightlife establishments and their neighbours over noise and curfews. As residential areas and nightlife districts continue to overlap spatially, venues come under threat of repeated noise complaints, fines and closure. Different levels of intervention by the government and varied policy landscapes at the local level influence the potential for nightlife and local residents to cohabitate in urban space. 

This article, written by Maarten Van Brederode explores the relationships between nightlife spaces and urban residents, highlighting challenges and some of the collaborative and direct engagements implemented in different cities worldwide. One such solution is the agent of change principle. Many venues, local policymakers, nightlife organisations, artists and patrons are successfully implementing this and other strategies to ensure better neighbourhood cohesion and mutually reinforced sustainability. By referencing this current state of affairs, in terms of conflicts and solutions, nightlife businesses and other actors can follow the examples presented here and innovate further within local contexts.

Read the full feature on here