Too Loud Is Not Allowed in Tel Aviv Nightclubs

The small group at the entrance to the Tel Aviv Port late last Thursday night did not come to enjoy the evening breeze or hang out in one of the nightclubs.

"Hear that bass? I must find out where that noise is coming from," said Moshe Balsenheim, head of the city's environmental unit, focused on a mission to crack down on noise.

Balsenheim, in his 50s, has been doing this job for 15 years and knows every nightclub in the city and its owner. The unit is authorized to determine whether a club or pub is adhering to municipal noise regulations and and so be issued a business license. It can also warn, seize and penalize clubs that exceed the noise limit. Music must not be heard outside the establishment's walls, explained one of the unit inspectors.

In the past month the city received some 25 complaints about the noise at the port from people living nearby and business people in the area. A week earlier the unit cracked down on the city's Atarim Square area, confiscating sound equipment from five nightclubs.

The raids mean stopping the music for the night and so hurting a club financially.

The team has decibel meters to measure the sound and issues a report to clubs whose volume exceeds the limit. This is the Tel Aviv municipality's second crackdown this year on noise pollution.

Tel Aviv police officer Yossi Jabbar, who accompanies the inspectors, examines the clubs' occupancy, emergency exits and other factors determined in their business licenses.

He said club owners "start to stutter" when they realize that a policeman is on the team, not merely inspectors.

"I can order them to change glasses made of glass for plastic ones if I detect any violence in the club," he said. "If they don't keep to the terms of the business license, I can summon them to a hearing in which an officer decides what to do, and we can even close the place down if there's an immediate danger to public safety," he said.

The inspectors confiscate a club's sound equipment only after previous warnings are ignored, said Balsenheim. "If a club owner continues making the noise after we've issued a warning and confiscated stuff, we can take two steps - either seize his equipment again or issue an administrative closure order for 30 days with an option for another 30 days," he said. Such an order requires the mayor's signature.

"A club owner can get his equipment back if he signs a statement that from now on he will honor the conditions. In any case he will be fined hundreds of shekels," he said.

On Thursday night the team ultimately confiscated sound equipment from only one club - Hama'apilim. The noise level at the rest of the places was borderline, said the inspectors. Other clubs received a first formal warning.

Hama'apilim immediately attracted Balsenheim's attention. "This is completely out of line," he said. "It's an open space, right across from apartment buildings. The owner had been issued a closing order in the past."