Iconic Manchester venue Night & Day to survive after noise ruling

Slow Readers Club at Night and Day, by Ben Smithson

A judge has ruled in favour of a compromise by Manchester music venue Night & Day café so it can continue with its club nights, under certain restrictions. 

The case had become framed as a totemic stand-off between the hospitality sector, the City Council and new residents in the city centre who objected to noise.

At its most acrimonious, Night & Day accused the City Council of a “declaration of war” in pursuing the noise abatement case, something the City Council always denied, pointing out that the case was brought by Night & Day.

District Judge Margaret McCormack said: “In an ideal world, a balance would be able to be struck in the ability of the resident to enjoy their property and the venue to operate as a going concern.

“Sadly, due to a faulty party wall this is not possible.”

However, Sacha Lord, the Night Time Economy adviser for Greater Manchester, has warned that the case may set ”an alarming precedent” which suggests new build properties can impede on, or suppress existing, successful venues. 

“This case demonstrates the urgency with which the Agent of Change policy must be adopted across the UK to protect venues and encourage a more cohesive approach to planning. Mayor Andy Burnham and the Leaders of Greater Manchester have been working extensively behind the scenes to ensure this policy is implemented across our ten boroughs as a principle on new developments moving forward.”

The venue welcomed the amendment to the Noise Abatement Notice, saying the judge had agreed to the noise levels that “we offered to Manchester City Council in June 2023 as part of joint testing and negotiations.”

On social media, Night & Day said: “This means we can continue with the club nights that N&D and other live music venues are so dependent on. DJ club nights contribute to developing the raw, amazing talent and emerging live music scene that grace our stage, Manchester and beyond.

“Although Night & Day has won, we’re disappointed with today’s judgement as the venue will have to adjust our club nights to suit an occupier of what is a defective apartment.

“Manchester City Council Planning approved the apartment back in 2000 in full knowledge that there would be serious potential for noise problems in this flat and before any resident moved in. Today’s decision has huge implications for other Manchester night time industries and operators.”

A Manchester City Council spokesperson said: “We are glad that this case has reached a conclusion, although it is regrettable that despite many attempts it could not be amicably resolved prior to Night & Day bringing this court case.”

The Council insists it has never sought to close Night & Day.

“Over many months numerous meetings have taken place where we have sought to reach an amicable resolution with the venue, through negotiation and offering compromise, to agree acceptable sound levels which would allow us to uphold our legal duties and the venue to continue to thrive.

“It is as a last resort and extremely rare for us to issue a noise abatement notice.

“Manchester’s music venues overwhelmingly live in harmony with their neighbours and while complaints and issues are not uncommon, they are almost always resolved through dialogue.”

The Council welcomed the judge’s ruling that Night & Day should use a noise limiter, claiming they proposed this solution.

Sacha Lord added: “Night & Day is a long-standing and integral part of the UK’s grassroots music scene and Greater Manchester has always been proud to play host to such an iconic venue.

“Grassroots venues have always been an important part of Greater Manchester’s cultural sector, as demonstrated by the long-standing support given to the industry and its employees with initiatives including the GMCA’s Music Commission, and we will continue to support Night & Day to develop additional solutions.”

In a spirit of compromise, the Council appear to agree with Lord and said they are committed to helping “Manchester’s music scene to continue to flourish for many years to come,” and will publish the results of a “major independent review” into the support Manchester’s grassroots music venues need, and how the council and partners can support venues. Its findings will be launched in May and will set out a way to champion Manchester’s independent music scene for the years ahead.

“Music is a key ingredient of what makes Manchester special. The Council not only recognises this but has for many decades supported and encouraged grassroots venues and emerging musical talent. We continue to do so,” the spokesperson added.

“The Council regularly support music ventures across the city, from grassroots to major venues, and emerging musicians through initiatives like Manchester Music City, Brighter Sounds and the Manchester Music Education Hub. The Council also funds and supports Beyond The Music, a new annual conference and festival which brings music industry leaders together to address challenges within the sector.”

A statement from the Greater Manchester Music Commission, sent by its co-chair Jay Taylor welcomed the news that Night & Day are able to operate as they have done for over 32 years, but had concerns: “We are left with a local system that is unable to recognise and correct historic poor practice, one that spends excessive amounts of public money, one that puts venue operators and their teams under huge emotional and financial pressure, and one that can make wildly unpopular decisions while bizarrely misreading the cultural essence of an entire city. And sadly, one that could still lead to the permanent closure of any part of our cultural and night-time landscape.”