IT IS 3AM and 60-year-old Y.M. Lou is abruptly awoken by the loud thumping base reverberating throughout her house in Jalan Berangan, Bukit Bintang.
The noise is so loud that everything shakes to the beat of the music that rattles the window panes of her father’s five-decade-old house.
Lou, who suffers from hip osteoarthritis, had to struggle with the aid of a cane to get to her father’s room as quickly as she could and found the 84-year-old sitting wide awake in his bed.
The octogenarian has been having sleepless nights, no thanks to the loud music courtesy of their neighbours.
This scene has repeated itself every night for the past two-and-a-half years and it is getting worse by the day.
Without a soundproofing system, and only a thin wall separating her father’s house from the nightclub next door, Lou and her father have been subject to the noise that has robbed their peace of mind and turned their home into a nightmare.
Nightmare on Jalan Berangan
It all started late 2015 when new tenants moved into the residential house next door to Lou and turned it into a nightclub. Everything was fine until the music started.
“My entire living room would reverberate from the thumping base of the music, which usually starts at about 10pm and only stops at 3am to 3.30am the next day,” Lou said, adding that even the walls and ceiling would reverberate.
“When I knew it was not going to stop and worried for my father and my own health, I decided to do something about it,” she said.
Lou started taking recordings of the noise each time it happened, and on some days, the party did not end until well after 8am.
On top of that, there is the daily sight of highly intoxicated party-goers stumbling out of the club next door, making noise loud enough to be heard a few doors down the road.
At times, Lou said they would start fighting and there was even a time when one of them was injured in a fight and fell bleeding in front of her gate.
She compiled all her evidence and made her way to Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to seek help.
Over the next two years since she first lodged a complaint with DBKL, Lou has made numerous complaints to the local authority.
She even went as far as to lodge a complaint with the Public Complaints Bureau of the Prime Minister’s Department and made several police reports over the matter but nothing was done about the problem.
According to Lou, enforcement officers from DBKL would come, and after talking to the neighbour, would leave without offering any solution.
“Any establishment seeking to open a commercial enterprise on Jalan Berangan must get permission from their neighbours and put up a signboard calling for feedback before anything is built,” she said.
A public hearing must be carried out and residents must be informed before a house can be turned into a commercial establishment.
“There was a house that was turned into a hotel and they did put up a signboard. But the same courtesy was never offered to me,” Lou said.
“I want to know how DBKL can allow a nightclub to operate next to a residential house; allow the extensions and LED signage, which is also causing a nuisance.
“Not forgetting the cars parked in front of my house all day and night. My fundamental right as a resident in a house I have been living in since I was six has been taken away.
“I wonder whether my father ever thought things would turn out this way when he bought this house 50 years ago?” she said.
In her research, she also discovered that there were premises operating there that did not have entertainment and premises licences and many also did not install soundproofing systems to ensure there was no noise pollution.
Her struggle for justice continues well after the May 9 election, as her neighbours continue to play their music into the wee hours of the morning with the bass turned up as high as possible and her father’s health continues to worry her.
Much ado about nothing?
Complaints on noise pollution are not a new phenomenon in Bukit Bintang. In 2010, the entertainment licences of five clubs in the Jalan P. Ramlee stretch were revoked, depriving the clubs of the right to have any live band or deejay performing on the premises.
According to then Kuala Lumpur mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail, the club owners were repeatedly told to tone down the volume before DBKL decided to take action.
The permitted level for areas such as Jalan P. Ramlee is 60 A-weighted decibels (dBA), but when DBKL officers went to inspect, the reading was over 80dBA, which is considered very loud.
According to DBKL enforcement officers who went to check out the noise, the loud floor vibrations and music could be heard by guests staying at the Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur.
The clampdown on noise lasted for a week before the ban was lifted after the club owners, on the advice of the mayor, made a successful appeal to the then Federal Territories minister, Datuk Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin.
Operators promised the issue would never arise again as they would install sound-proofing to ensure the music would be contained within the premises and that the sound level would not exceed the stipulated limit which, according to Nong Chik, should not exceed 65dB during the day and 55dB at night.
Since then, complaints have been reported by residents living in condominiums around the area for years now.
Residents living in Jalan Ceylon have often griped about noise pollution and rowdy crowds and drunken brawls originating from Changkat Bukit Bintang. But club operators argue that the noise is part of city living and pointed out that the condos were built after the clubs began operating.
No permission from residents
Unlike Changkat Bukit Bintang, originally a street of shophouses built in the 1940s, which is now a designated commercial zone, Jalan Beranang is a residential area.
However, the land status was changed to commercial but with a caveat that any attempt to open a commercial business in the stretch required consent from the residents still living there.
DBKL also has very clear conditions for entertainment outlets.
They must be at least 100m away from schools, residential areas with a Muslim majority as well as places of worship. This itself was in violation of the rules.
When the matter was brought to the attention of mayor Tan Sri Mohd Amin Nordin Abd Aziz, he said operating hours of entertainment outlets in Dedicated Entertainment Zones (DEZ) were extended until 5am.
DEZ covers Jalan Tun Razak, Jalan Bukit Bintang, Changkat Bukit Bintang, Jalan Nagasari, Jalan Doraisamy and Jalan Berangan.
Amin Nordin said entertainment outlets in these areas could operate with extended hours after being granted special permission by the Cabinet in 2015.
“But this is subject to the operators following the rules and guidelines including installing CCTV and soundproofing systems,” Amin Nordin said.
Compliance with DEZ guidelines also stipulate that the premises needs to be soundproofed, located away from residential and religious areas, have adequate security and public transportation options, and are convenient for tourists to patronise.
Amin Nordin said the general rule on operating hours for entertainment outlets outside of the DEZ was until 3am, but some went beyond that.
On the Jalan Berangan issue, the mayor said there were clearly multiple infringements and action will be taken against the culprits.