April 21, 2006, Spain:
Four-year prison sentence for noise pollution
Excessive noise from bars and restaurants does not go unnoticed among their neighbours. Today in Spain, it does not go unpunished, either. This is the message from a high profile case in against a bar and restaurant operator in Barcelona.
The High Court in Barcelona found the operator of the “el Portet” bar and restaurant, Dionisio Mestre, guilty of noise pollution. While sentencing Mestre to four years in prison in February 2006, the judge also issued a harsh warning to the city council for “its administrative inefficiency”.
The bar opened in 2003 without the appropriate council operating licenses. In particular, the premises failed to take any steps to limit the noise. The city council ordered its closure on three occasions but the owner ignored the orders.
The neighbours’ nightmare lasted for a year, until four of them decided to sue the owners of the bar. Constant noises from machinery, parties and meetings into the early morning were unbearable.
In addition to the prison sentence, the owner of the restaurant was ordered to pay 32.000 euro as compensation for the damages caused to the neighbours and a fine of 8,640 euro. He was also disqualified from running any food and beverage related business for three years.
The sentence is the heaviest ever handed down in Spain for noise pollution.
“This sentence is a warning to those employers who think they can do whatever they want,” said prosecutor Luis Gallardo to the elpais.es online newspaper.
In addition, the city council must take steps to prevent the opening and operation of business activities without the appropriate licences, and restaurants and bars creating noise levels above permitted levels.
The bar will remain closed for three years, although it now has qualified for and been issued the required licenses.
Sources: www.elpais.es, www.ruidos.org and www.20minutos.es, 23 February 2006