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Popular Saint-Laurent venue The Diving Bell closing after increase in noise complaints: owners

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Montreal's Diving Bell Social Club, a popular event space on The Main, will shut its doors in December after repeated complaints from neighbours over noise, the bar's owners say.

The space is managed by co-owners Evan Johnston and Austin Wrinch. They say they're looking for a new space – one that's more accessible (the current location is only reachable by three flights of stairs) and further away from people's homes.

"We feel like we could do better and have a more stable footing," said Wrinch in an interview with CTV News on Sunday.

The Diving Bell has held concerts, comedy, and drag shows at Saint-Laurent Boulevard and Duluth Avenue for five years.

Owners say the venue has come a long way since their now-landlord showed them the space, located on the top floor of a building occupied by a handful of other bars.

"He brought us upstairs, showed us a room that was pretty much just a storage space and said, 'Hey, do you want to do something up here?'" said Johnston. "Against our better judgement, we said, 'This is a great idea.'"

"We took some time, pulled all the garbage out, and started a place called The Diving Bell."

In the years that followed, like many other businesses on The Main, they had to work around COVID-19 lockdowns. Wrinch says business hasn't been the same since.

Saint-Laurent is one of Montreal's most popular boulevards, known for its shops and bars offering some of the city's best eats, music, and nightlife. Densely-packed apartment buildings line the streets adjacent to the action.

"When we had the ability to run shows here again, I think some people had moved (into the neighbourhood), and that's when the complaints started. I think they were used to a little more peace and quiet," he said. "We're experiencing tension from our neighbours based on what our business is about."

"I think this phenomenon is becoming more common," said Tasha Morizio, executive director of the Business Association for Saint-Laurent Boulevard.

Morizio says she's aware of several bars and event spaces on the strip which have received increased noise complaints from neighbours.

"Not just bar owners, but even when it comes to our festivals on the street, we've had people come to tell us, 'We moved in last year, and we didn't realize these street festivals were going to be so noisy,'" she said.

Morizio says the city could do more to mediate between people who work and live near The Main. For example, she said, the difference between a fine and a warning for a noise complaint comes down to the discretion of the police officer responding to it.

She says venue permits should include relative noise allowances to clarify what is and isn't too loud.

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