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Temporary bylaw proposed to allow music on patios downtown (July 12)

lakeshore-patioThe city is considering allowing entertainment or music on private patios in the downtown core on a trial basis.

City council will consider a temporary bylaw at the July 12, Development & Infrastructure Committee, followed by a vote at Council July 18.

Residents can attend to speak at either meeting: Register as a Delegation The staff report on this item will be available about a week prior to the meeting here: Agendas & Minutes

The purpose of this temporary use by-law is to initiate a pilot program in the downtown that will permit entertainment and/or music on private outdoor patios for up to three years. The by-law will temporarily allow the entertainment use on outdoor patios (which is not currently permitted in the Zoning By-law) while staff studies the issue.

Currently, the City’s Noise By-law allows “loudspeakers or other electro-mechanical transducers intended for the production, reproduction, or amplification of sound until 11 p.m” on outdoor patios. The by-laws allow music from speakers on outdoor patios, but an acoustic guitar player is prohibited. The purpose of the pilot program would be to allow acoustic musicians on patios until 11 p.m.

Staff are focusing on the downtown as a pilot study area as a result of recent interest in this use. The by-law gives staff the ability to conduct the pilot program for a reasonable time frame. See the staff memo to the D&I Committee giving notice of the upcoming bylaw:  Temporary Use By-law Memo

If committee, and then council, approves the temporary bylaw, there is a 30 day appeal period before it would take effect. If no appeals are received, the by-law would go into effect Aug. 17 for the specified period of time.

My Take: I support a temporary bylaw for entertainment uses on patios downtown. I believe that under certain circumstances, live music can enhance the dining and entertainment experience, as well as the overall vibrancy of our downtown, and coexist with residents who live downtown. We have been told by restaurants that their businesses are busier when there has been live music.

I was, in fact, surprised to learn live music isn’t already permitted, given that I have often witnessed acoustic performers on various downtown patios. Further, during special events like Fit in the Core, Saturdays in the Street, Sound of Music, and the city’s former busker program, music has been allowed outside under certain conditions. In addition, piped in music is already allowed on patios, just not live performance.

I support conditions being added to entertainment/music on patios, specifically end by a set time (for example 11pm on weekends, 5 or 6pm on Sundays or holidays), and no amplified instruments (for example, electric guitar).

I believe a temporary bylaw will allow us to gauge the impact on surrounding residential buildings and neighbourhoods and make adjustments before a permanent change. Resident input and feedback will be an important part of this process.

Your Take:

Got thoughts or suggestions on the bylaw, and potential conditions? Leave them below or email me at


Written by Marianne Meed Ward

A Better Burlington began in 2006 after my neighbours said they felt left out of city decisions, learning about them only after they’d been made.

As journalist for 22 years, I thought “I can do something about that” and a website and newsletter were born. They’ve taken various forms and names over the years, but the intent remains: To let you know what’s happening at City Hall before decisions are made, so you can influence outcomes for A Better Burlington.

The best decisions are made when elected representatives tap the wisdom of our community members, and welcome many different perspectives.This site allows residents to comment and debate with each other; our Commenting Guidelines established in 2016 aim to keep debate respectful.

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  1. I am surprised that we don’t have this by-law in place already. I live above the restaurants and hear acoustic guitar music quite often. I am in favour of all music. However, there should be some guidelines, e.g. week days & Sun to 9:00 pm and Fri/Sat to 11:00 pm. My question is who will be monitoring the volume? Acoustic could mean trumpet/sax, etc. Some residents work shifts i.e. doctors, nurses. This should all be taken into account prior to passing a by-law.
    I am in favour.

  2. I am generally in favor of allowing music however control of the volume and the feelings of local residents is far more important.
    We live at Maple and Fairview and could hear the music (?) from the
    Sound of Music (?) Festival on the Lakeshore.

  3. It is nice to hear that diners may now enjoy some acoustic music whilst dining downtown. Just a reminder, when they have finished their meal, they can go home to some peace and quiet or whatever they wish whereas downtown residents will have to wait ‘tll 11.00pm for some quiet!

  4. I love music and would attend outdoor music downtown if it was appealing. It’s odd that the by-law does not already approve of acoustic instruments, which are not that loud. but does allow for amplification, according to your article above.

  5. Like you, I’m surprised to learn this hasn’t always been permitted. Years ago I worked in restaurants downtown and we often had live entertainment on the patio. I don’t recall ever hearing a single complaint.

    I fully support this bylaw. Limiting music to acoustic performers and having sets end by 11 on weekends seems to be an entirely fair compromise. There’s lots of noise around that we all have to live with. I’m not terribly fond of being woken up at 6:25 am on a Monday morning by an annoyingly loud city sidewalk sweeper….but hey, that’s how cities work. No one who lives downtown should expect it to be quiet 24/7. Vibrant downtowns make some noise (although the music teacher in me takes exception to referring to live music as noise!)

What's your take?

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