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It's currently Chinese New Year. One of the very common cultural events during this festival is the Lion Dance, which is very noisy. It's noisy enough that it's hard to talk when there's a dance nearby. Furthermore, the noise carries a long distance, and it seems fairly common for the dance to be near residential areas (apparently some condominiums engage a troupe to perform within the condominium).

Does the law set any limits on where/how often disruptive performances like these dances can be performed? I'm curiously unable to Google for any results on this. The Wikipedia article on Lion Dance doesn't say anything about legality. If there is a crime, the obvious one is breach of peace, but I don't recall seeing any police crackdowns on noisy Lion Dances either (and these dances advertise their presence, so if it is breach of peace, the lack of crackdowns is presumably not due to the police being unaware).

I'm interested in all noisy cultural events, and lion dances are just an example. If the jurisdiction matters, I'm most interested in countries where the celebration is for a minority in the country (so for lion dances, Malaysia/Indonesia would qualify, since they have substantial Chinese minorities).

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    The "peace" in "breach of the peace" is the absence of disorder, not the absence of noise.
    – Lag
    Feb 19 at 6:44
  • Noise ordinances generally have time-of-day variations -- you can't be as noisy late at night (when most people are trying to sleep) than during the day or early evening. So unless the party goes on past 11pm, it will likely be OK.
    – Barmar
    Feb 19 at 15:55
  • Are noisy non-cultural events a non-issue?
    – MonkeyZeus
    Feb 19 at 18:13
  • In some jurisdictions an event can apply for a noise variance permit, which allows the organizer (within specific bounds set out by the permit) to exceed typical legal noise limits, whether by volume or time-of-day.
    – Milwrdfan
    Feb 19 at 19:33
  • "some condominiums engage a troupe" - that's unlikely to be 'permitted'. One through three is usually a warning. Fourth time the cops show up that night; people start going to jail. But the stuff they have a permit for doing in the middle of the street? Good luck. And this while they're doing that? If the operator just puts you on hold until tomorrow, it's a non-issue. We'll get right on it.
    – Mazura
    Feb 19 at 20:41

3 Answers 3

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Depends on who organizes it, how, and a little bit on why. A pre-planned event would likely have organizers who would apply with the municipal authorities for a permit. They would look at issues like road closures, temporary traffic signs, insurance, etc.

Part of the permit process would be a request for exceptions from noise protection ordinances. If the municipality agrees, the noise is permitted within the scope spelled out by the permit. If not, the would-be noisemaker can try to sue to have a court override the administration.

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At the extreme, this could be a public nuisance. See e.g. Attorney-General for Ontario v. Orange Productions Ltd. et al., 1971 CanLII 578. The Attorney General of Ontario wanted to enjoin a rock festival with tens of thousands of attendees. This was a classic public nuisance case: the court enjoined the festival because of excessive noise and similar adverse effects on the neighbouring property owners. Property rights — including the public right to clean air and quiet — dominated.

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In the UK, you need an event license.

For one-off events of less than 500 people (including staff), you need to get a Temporary Events Notice from your local council. These cover licensing for:

  • selling alcohol
  • providing entertainment, such as music, dancing or indoor sporting events
  • serving hot food or drink between 11pm and 5am

Note that the council cannot refuse to give you a TEN unless police or environmental health object. For one-off events, everyone else is just expected to put up with the mild inconvenience, as part of living in a community with other people in it. :) It's highly unlikely that Chinese New Year and the Lion Dance would be an issue, even if they're loud - although fireworks (typically a part of Chinese New Year) could be a serious safety concern. This was standardised as part of the 2003 Licensing Act to make it easier for pubs and restaurants to hold small events.

If you have more than 500 people and you're holding the event in an off-street location, you either need to get a premises license yourself, or you need a location which already has a premises license. If this is happening in the street, you need to apply for a street closure and likely a separate license for a street event. The process for this is specific to every local council, but if it's a large event then you're very likely to be required to provide first aid facilities and security, possibly liaise with the police, consider access for emergency services, and so on. Councils do have a right to refuse these, and local residents have a right to object too.

In general in the UK, noise levels for events during the day and early evening are not highly regulated. There may be a maximum volume (SPL measurement) imposed, but this will not normally be onerous. More normally though, events will have a hard stop at 11pm or midnight. Noise later at night is generally considered antisocial and breaching this may involve the police, with a range of potential charges for antisocial behaviour.

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