George Gacheru, the proprietor of Grill & Barbeque Bar in Kacyiru, a city suburb, plans to lay off some of his workers. Reason? His earnings have declined significantly due to “unrealistic” rules on noise pollution that limit the music he needs to play at his entertainment facility, located in a largely residential neighbourhood.
Gacheru is not alone in this predicament. Ongoing forced closures of bars and night clubs, confiscation of sound equipment as well as switching off of music at several happening places around town by Police is crippling entertainment business, operators say.
Ever Binamungu is the chief executive officer of Next Entertainment and owner of Club Next. He told The New Times that several entertainment spots are closing because of the unrealistic restrictions on noise pollution.
“We don’t know what to follow when it comes to the noise pollution. My club is sound proofed but the police always come, at least twice a week, to switch off the music. I am now scared of operating because I do not want to go to jail,” he said.
According to Binamungu, his business entirely depends on the quality of music he plays. “My business is crumbling yet I invested a lot of money,” Binamungu said.
He is calling for a meeting between City of Kigali officials and investors in the entertainment industry so as to come up with clear standards and guidelines that are realistic for business operations.
“We do not want financial help; all we need is upgrading the business as required. But the police response to the situation is scaring potential investors in the entertainment business. It’s one thing to call on people to invest and create jobs, and another when you begin imposing rules and regulations that are simply unrealistic.”
Police have no sound level metre to measure what constitutes noise pollution because officers use their own ears.
“If a person reports that there is disturbance and noise pollution, the police go to the scene to establish that what was reported is true by standing at the spot where the person who lodged the complaint is to determine if indeed the noise is disturbing,” said Modeste Mbabazi, the City of Kigali Police spokesperson.
He said Police is acting on recommendations of the September 17 meeting in Nyandungu that was chaired by Internal Security minister, where churches and entertainment businesses were told to observe the law against noise pollution after constant complaints from the public.
Provisions on noise pollution are stipulated in the Organic Law N° 04/2005 OF 08/04/2005 determining the modalities of protection, conservation and promotion of environment in Rwanda. Article 108 sates:
Anyone who: causes noise that may be harmful to the health of biodiversity and who excessively and in an intolerable manner disrupts the neighbourhood and damages property; is punished by a fine ranging from ten thousand (10,000) to one hundred thousand (100,000) Rwandan francs.
But operators of entertainment places say there is need to clearly define what constitutes excessive noise because current restrictions are rendering their night clubs dull and unattractive to customers.
“People are now going to Kampala and Bujumbura, even as far as Nairobi, for entertainment because the bars here operate with no music so night life is dull,” Binamungu said.
Gacheru says he has registered a decline in the number of customers.
“The number of people that come to my bar has drastically reduced that I’m now planning to reduce the staff because I can’t get enough money to pay them. In my kind of business, it is music and entertainment such as Karaoke that attracts clients,” Gacheru added.
Gacheru also said that it’s extremely hard to regulate sound in an open place.
“My clientele enjoy sitting outside. Indoor, sound proof can be installed, but that is not possible an open space outside.”
He said: “There is need to show the extent of the amount of sound that should be allowed.”
Moses Rutayisire, Director of Rwanda Hospitality Association, said that they are scheduling a meeting next week with Police and other stakeholders to address noise pollution issues.
“It’s not fair how this issue is being addressed. There are no machines being used to detect the level of noise so that bar owners can know when the level of the music played can be classified as noise pollution,” Rutayisire said.
“We have received reports that there are also cases of injustices where some bars are completely closed and the ones nearby continue to operate. For example, there are some clubs that have been closed because of noise pollution yet they have soundproof materials,” Rutayisire added.