Tue | Dec 1, 2020

Extended party hours big boost to business - No word yet on consideration for further extension of Noise Abatement Act

Published:Wednesday | January 29, 2020 | 12:00 AMYasmine Peru/Senior Gleaner Writer
Patrons at Weddy Wednesdays last year. Promoter Winston ‘Wee Pow’ Powell says the extended hours for the Noise Abatement Act were “helpful for all the players in the music business”.

In piloting last December’s legislation to secure a temporary extension to the party hours regulated by the Noise Abatement Act, Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang acknowledged that as Government “we must create the balance between the continued growth of our music and entertainment industries, and maintaining public order, safety and well-being of the general public”.

In the months leading up to the December reprieve, promoters and sound system operators had been at loggerheads with the police and the authorities over the strict enforcement of the act’s regulations, which mandate a 12 a.m. lock-off during the week and 2 a.m. on weekends. Vendors, too, were caught in this wrangle. Over at weekly dance, Uptown Mondays, popular soupman, Barry, had told The Gleaner at the end of August that early lock-off was bad for business. “Wha’ di result fi me and di other people who sell? Terrible! Right now we have back-to-school and we can’t see nuh money. Everything lock off and nuh people nuh deh yah fi buy nutten. We all haffi dash way some soup. Right now, we start cook less and it still nah sell off,” he had said.

Promoters complained that their events suffered from lack of support, as their patrons were used to coming out later to party, so they showed up when the police were locking off the sound. However, with the extension, they are all singing a new song.

Good for business

Veteran sound system owner and promoter of Weddy Wednesdays, Winston ‘Wee Pow’ Powell, hailed the extension as being “helpful for all the players in the music business”.

“Promoters who had called it a day are getting busy once more and the vendors are back in business,” a happy Wee Pow told The Gleaner. Another sore point that he addressed was the conflict between the promoters and the police.

“Additionally, I must say that the relationship with the police is much better now, and that is always a good thing. However, some of the police dem still too arrogant.”

Another sound system operator and promoter of weekly party, Uptown Mondays, Whitfield ‘Witty’ Henry, agreed to some extent with Wee Pow’s assessment. He admitted that things have been somewhat improved, since the dances have been allowed to play until 2 a.m. during the week and 4 a.m. on weekends. “Things could a better, but we still give thanks and praise. The sound system could a play over the period and we could honour our agreements.”

He stated, however, that some of the policemen are reluctant to abide by the new regulation. “There are some who are unruly. If the security ministry issue a new code, even if it’s temporary, then that’s the way the thing set. But is like some of the cops have dem own law.”

Garth Walsh, who stages the weekly event, Wet Sundays, told The Gleaner that the extended hours for business meant that he was able to operate profitably, just as he did before the enforcement of the regulation. “Before the extension, my business was operating at a loss, but it has picked up since,” Walsh said,

Responding to what was achieved by the extension, chairman of the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA), Ewan Simpson, shared with The Gleaner that he was not aware of any reports which would suggest that there were any major challenges. “The feedback from the industry is that the additional time was a positive for their events,” he said.

There have been calls for the extension to go beyond the January 31 date, up to the end of Reggae Month, which is February. Simpson noted that it was a matter for Cabinet, “but we are not sure exactly where those discussions are”.