Pub row

Nahalat Shiva residents are fed up with noisy bars.

On October 22, the Knesset's Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved the initial reading of Kadima MK Ruhama Avraham's proposed Bar Law - which would shut nightclubs, pubs, bars and other places serving alcohol at 2 a.m. If enacted, the proposed bill - which must first pass its second and then final readings - won't come a moment too soon for the residents of quaint Nahalat Shiva, a neighborhood founded in 1869 which has evolved in recent years into downtown Jerusalem's late night entertainment hub. For months residents have been complaining to City Hall and the Israel Police about the rowdiest of the bars, which tend to close at dawn or whenever their last customer leaves. Shai Sasson, the chairman of the Nahalat Shiva Neighborhood Committee - who lives in the historic courtyard tucked behind pedestrian-only Rehov Yoel Moshe Salomon - met recently with Tzahi Katz, the head of the Municipal Inspection Department at Kikar Safra. Sasson told Katz of the residents' issues about parking and garbage. But their key complaint is noise. "They've destroyed my life," he says of Dimitri Tantlevsky, the current owner of the neighboring John Silver pub. "There's no nighttime by us." The bar blares high-decibel music until the early hours, drunks set off car alarms all night, at 4 a.m. the municipal street cleaning machines make a racket as crews clear the night's garbage, and then at 6 a.m. construction begins on the Solomon Hotel, complains Sasson. On November 12 city inspectors, armed with a closure order, changed the lock on the John Silver bar. The next day the staff broke into the premises, changed the cylinder and re-opened for business. The unlicensed pub continues to illegally place its chairs and tables in the courtyard atop the historic cistern, making it difficult for tourists groups who frequent the site to pass. "The inspectors only come during the day," complains Sasson. "There's a problem here of [lack of] inspection. There's no one who works during the night to carry out inspections." Meanwhile the bar continues to sell alcohol to minors, he alleges. Municipal spokesman Gidi Shmerling explains that because the ownership of the bar recently changed hands, the closure order has been postponed to allow the new management an opportunity to comply with municipal noise laws. Tantlevsky seems unfazed by his neighbors' complaints and also dismisses MK Ruhama Avraham's proposed Bar Law as impractical. "It's not suitable to Israel," he says. "People only go out at midnight. To close at 2 a.m. would hurt both people and businesses." For David Atia, the caretaker of the adjoining Ohel Yitzhak synagogue, the John Silver bar is especially galling because the owners deliberately turn up the volume on the music when worshipers come to pray, he says. "How can it be that City Hall changes the lock [at John Silver], and then does nothing when the owners break in and reopen?" he asks. Fed up with the vomit, vandalism and endless disturbances, Atia recently put his key money home up for sale. He is currently negotiating with a purchaser who wants to open another entertainment venue there. Atia, who like Sasson grew up in Nahalat Shiva, acknowledges the attrition of the original population as one family after another has fled. His neighbor Nathan also left at the end of November after many years operating his old-fashioned barber shop on Rehov Yoel Moshe Salomon, yet another nail in the coffin of the neighborhood's formerly residential character. Meanwhile other residents are waiting for the Underground to go six feet under. The notoriously noisy Kikar Zion disco with its deafening bass is located in a building which was recently sold, along with several adjoining Jaffa Road properties, to a developer for $6.3 million. The buildings - including Beit Valero, the original Steimatzky's bookstore and the former Conservatory for Music - will be replaced by an eight-story round tower. "There's no solution for the residents in the city center which will allow them a basic, normal life," asserts Sasson. "The noise from the music - haval al hazman [forget about it.]" Some Nahalat Shiva business owners do share residents' concerns over noise. "I'm a big believer in coexistence, in looking for ways for everyone to get along," says David Ehrlich of Tmol Shilshom, a literary caf and bohemian hangout in the same courtyard with the John Silver pub. Ehrlich closes between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. "Youth in Jerusalem need a place to get rid of energy. But the residents of this neighborhood should have bearable lives. I'm in favor of limiting hours and noise."