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February 23, 2024

Pub’s live music under pressure

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Publicans Matt Rabbidge and Luke Sullivan in their venue, the Eltham Pub. Photo Tree Faerie.

Just two weeks after NSW Minister for Music and the Night-time Economy, John Graham, released ‘Vibrancy Reforms’ to ‘encourage businesses to innovate and put on live performance by giving them certainty’, the Eltham Hotel has had noise restrictions placed on it by Liquor and Gaming NSW.

Despite the noise limits being imposed following complaints from some neighbours, other neighbours have told The Echo they support the pub’s live music, and say the publicans have always acted promptly and consulted with the community. 

Matt Rabbidge and Luke Sullivan took over the venue four years ago, and told The Echo that they want to resolve the noise issues with the community, while continuing to run a dynamic pub and venue. They are appealing the noise restrictions, which they say mean they would even struggle to run the trivia night. 

‘We are really proud of what we do here,’ Matt said. 

Publicans Matt Rabbidge and Luke Sullivan at the Eltham Pub. Photo Tree Faerie

Want to compromise

‘But we are aware we are making noise and we want to work on a compromise. We want to operate as a pub, and hope to do some live music. We do a range of events here from “Science in the Pub” to NORPA theatre, folk and blues music – this space holds relevance as a cultural hub for all.’

One neighbour, Casey Jackson, told The Echo, ‘It is a village full of [people from] every walk of life, and this has been hard to watch. I don’t see that the boys have created too many issues. They had a loud gig here and there – but we all make mistakes.’

Phil Ridler, who moved in not long after Matt and Luke took over the pub, agrees, telling The Echo that, ‘initially there were a few noisy episodes. There were occasions when there was a bit of noise. Then they got the community together for a discussion about it’. 

‘To be fair to the guys, they have done everything they could to mitigate the noise. The 9.30pm curfew was great, and really appreciated,’ he said. 

‘Overall, they have consulted the community, they have bent over backwards. They have had sessions with us and have checked up. They have put so many noise mitigations in place, we don’t hear them anymore, and we don’t know when to go down to the pub when there’s a good band on.’

Background noise

One of the big challenges is that noise restrictions are based on a comparison of the venue’s noise to background noise. In a city that can be quite high due to people, traffic, and other venues. But in a country venue that background noise can be just birds and cows, and so the significantly lower background noise has the potential to lead to little or no music at all.

‘We want to get the harmony back and we respect the fact that noise carries. Even if we were granted the right to operate live music after 9.30pm, we wouldn’t, because that is our self-imposed cutoff after our discussions with the community. So we’ve had no amplified noise after 9.30pm for over two years now.’

When they took over the pub Matt and Luke got rid of the pokies and focused on making the pub a place to come to for ‘good food, good music, good drinks and a great vibe’.

‘We’ve been turning down bands like Mud Honey and UMI who want to play here on their pub tour because they would be too noisy,’ said Matt.

‘Talking to previous publicans we know the pub has a great history of live music and events, even bikie events. While we are disappointed at the restrictions and we are appealing, we know where we are located and there is a middle ground and we want to work on a compromise. We are first to admit that we didn’t get it right in the first instance but are looking to continue working with the community.’

A ‘Save live music at Eltham Hotel’ change.org petition has reached 7,808 signatures as of Tuesday, and can be found at www.change.org/p/save-live-music-at-eltham-hotel. 

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  1. Hats off to Matt and Luke for doing their best to mitigate the impact on neighbours, and running a great venue. BUT why are there only two options “no music” or “really loud bands”? All these articles that frame this debate as a “day the music died” type problem. Eltham is a small, quiet, rural town (as the noise reports prove), surely live music includes acoustic / low impact options. Eltham really is not the right spot for loud rock bands or large events, there are other venues/locations in the area that are just better suited to that kind of event.


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