Reggae’s Noise Complaints Exposes Sarnia’s Racism

On June 19, around 930pm, my friend and I drove by Reggae’s Caribbean Restaurant a new Jamaican restaurant on Christina St, and they had a full patio. The owner is from out of town and moved to Sarnia to set up this business with his family, and it was exciting to see a new restaurant drawing out folks for a night out in the downtown area. So I turned the car around and walked up to their patio, hoping to get a seat to join in. The owner saw us and quickly went inside to get another table and put it out for us (socially distanced, of course). We ordered some drinks and then just enjoyed taking in the evening with the group there.

Thirty minutes into our visit, a police officer pulled up and asked to speak to the owner inside. So off they went and stood right at the window next to the patio and continued. I quickly followed them and went inside to listen in, partly because I’m nosey but also because it was a strange situation that shouldn’t involve the police. It turned out that someone had called in a noise complaint. The officer was there to give them a warning. I asked the officer what designates an appropriate level of sound for a complaint that is followed up on, and he explained that it was up to the officer that showed up for the call.

I’m telling you, I was right there, just a few feet away from this “noise,” and there was nothing to complain about. I could have a conversation with the people beside me without raising my voice while being directly beside the speaker. So I was confused as to why the officer was exercising his subjective opinion by telling the owner that he was doing something wrong. He also told the business owner that he could apply for a noise exemption for every night he wanted to be open past 9 pm and bring it to city council (which would never fly because the noise occurring should not need an exemption).  He told them to turn down the bass of the music, but the volume seemed fine.  He also warned them that they would get a ticket if it happened again. The officer left, ordered some food but had no idea how much an interaction like that was feeding into a much larger problem.

After observing this situation, I spoke to the owner who frustratingly exclaimed that this wasn’t the first time this happened. They had a few folks from the apartment next door who were explicit in their intent to sabotage their business with multiple noise complaints until they got fined and eventually shut down. I reached out to the police chief who responded with, “I have forwarded your questions to the Inspector in charge of General Patrol Peter Murphy and have copied the Chair of the Police Services Board (who is Mayor Mike Bradley).” After multiple follow-ups and no answers, I made a successful motion at a council meeting for Sarnia Police and city staff to report to council the following:

How it is determined if something is excessive noise (either through a decimal level or some other instrument to give an objective answer). How complaints are handled that are considered vexatious or repetitive so that they don’t put a continual burden on the person that is being complained about.

The situation has since escalated. A week ago on August 3rd, the owner called me to share an update and ask for help. The same folks who have threatened to shut down their business have now been harassing customers and telling them not to go into the restaurant. They have made racial slurs and insults, insinuating that they do not belong here. One man exposed his penis to the owner’s thirteen-year-old daughter. He quickly called the police to let them know what was going on and the response? Without proof, there is nothing they could do. Maybe they could set up some video cameras to capture the harassment?

I reached out to the police chief and city council to express the urgency of this situation. How are noise complaints being followed up with by multiple officers on multiple occasions (with police leadership fully aware of the problem), but sexual and racist harassment is being ignored in the same situation? Certainly, they would deal with these situations with some common sense and deal with it accordingly? What kind of response did I receive? Crickets.

A few days later, the owner called me again; this time, two officers showed up from the direction of their Sergeant on August First Friday, also the Jamaican Independence Day and presented them with a fine for “Noise likely to disturb: namely music and yelling.” This was after their night was over, as people were getting in cabs and heading home and after I pleaded with them to put these complaints into context and recognize what was going on here. This is after I got a motion passed to report on how we can have better and more objective standards for noise complaints.

So I reached out to the Police Chief and City Council again, updating them on the situation and this time I received the following response from the mayor:

Councillor Colquhoun: Members of Police Boards in Ontario are not allowed by law under the Police Act to interference in the day to day operations of a Police Service. The law is in place to stop political interference in the day to day activities of Police Services.  If anyone has a complaint against a Police Service or Police Officers on Service or Conduct there is one law for the Province.  The information on how to file a complaint is on the Sarnia Police Service Web site under How to contact us Section called Complaints and Conduct.  Complaint can be made directly to the Police Service in question to the Professional Standards Office or to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director which in independent office staffed by civilians.

Trust this will be on interest to you.

Mayor Mike Bradley

As a bar owner, I cannot imagine being fined for my patrons yelling and music playing – on a First Friday night when the streets, and twenty other restaurants, are full of people and on my national holiday. Frankly, it just would never happen. Could it have anything to do with the colour of my skin?

I am greatly disturbed that our city is so racist that this kind of systemic discrimination happens intentionally and without remorse. They know. Those in power know, and they are now directing their officers to make it even worse on this business owner. It was only a few years ago that our mayor and police chief disagreed with the Maclean’s article calling us the second most racist city in Canada. The irony is dripping. 

I’m not even sure what to do anymore besides make this public and hope that we have enough citizens in this city to make up for the ineptness, racism and corruption of our leadership. 

So shower Reggae’s with your love and business, write letters to the police board, the mayor and council and stand against this kind of horrific actions in our community. That may be all we can do right now is show that love can overcome hate and that we won’t stand idly by while those in power continue to make excuses and make matters worse. 

40 thoughts on “Reggae’s Noise Complaints Exposes Sarnia’s Racism”

  1. This is pretty sad. I went to the restaurant in July and the owner treated my friend and I royally. Why would the police not investigate a complaint of indecent exposure? The last time I looked, it’s a criminal offence. Racial slurs can also be construed as a hate crime, but with the SPS’s checkered history in dealing with such matters within its own ranks, I guess one can’t be too surprised there would be little interest in investigating this either.
    Because of pandemic rules, Reggae’s has had to offer service outdoors and music is part if the Jamaican vibe the owner is trying to create.

    1. The person they said flashed their daughter did not even live here at the time of the incident so they either mistook the person or they were making it up. They got kicked out of London for noise.

  2. Not only is 9:30 p.m. a ridiculously early time to make a noise complaint, but also, nearby residents need to cut restaurants a bit of slack as everything continues to operate outdoors due to covid!

    I would agree, this sounds like a situation of racism. There are MANY restaurants in town that operate loudly in the evenings. I was at Crabby Joe’s in Petrolia recently around 9pm, with a whole live band playing next to an apartment building on their main street.

    My advice to the complainers: get a grip! Centennial used to be chock-full of festivals all summer long and residents just had to deal with it. Police should be in support of local business owners who are operating honestly and bringing joy to this city after a difficult year.

  3. On our way to pick up our first takeout meal from this business, won’t be our last! Hopefully our community will show them what we are really all about…diversity, inclusion and support for our small businesses!

  4. I find it absolutely amazing that Sarnia Police “Don’t have the ability to check the decibel level” on the multiple and extremely loud car exhaust systems that I can hear 1 km from Canatara park on a routine basis and the SPS have received numerous complaints about by multiple citizens. But they can magically write out a ticket for a noise complaint for a business with no measurement of any kind. This kind of selective bylaw enforcement is a typical show of The City Of Sarnia’s lack of balance. Much like the zealous enforcement of parking infractions in the downtown core but never anywhere else in town when a home owner complains about people blocking an entire road, triple parked and all facing south for a 1/2 hour in a residential area so they can pick up little Jimmy & Jill from school. Pathetic. Racist in this case. Typical. The flashing pedophile should be taken seriously but it will probably turn out to be a buddy or brother in law of somebody so no investigation will be forthcoming. But alas, nothing is going to change in this city unless we vote for change.

  5. I’ll be trying them out soon ! Unfortunately Sarnia is an old fashioned small town and has not eradicated racism but if all the rest of us make the right steps eventually these old dinosaurs will follow ❤️ Sarnia has no room for hate ❤️

  6. There are videos from when covid was real bad of this place no masks partying, maybe 1 out of 10 with masks, And as for noise people live right beside it ofc they want to sleep at 9:30 pm like everyone else its not racist

    1. What do masks have to do with the issue at hand..completely false statement by the way..sounds like you should work with the satnua police.. smh

    2. Not everyone goes to bed at 9:30. Bylaw for noise is 11. Lots of festivals in Sarnia and not one has stopped at 9:30. Get a grip! Leave these people alone to make a living. Maybe you should move if you don’t like it. Retirement homes are in bed by 9:30, try there.

    3. “Black people taking over “….what do you call that? When you are a person of colour and someone says that to you, what would you say? Come by the restaurant some time I can tell you the rest of what was said personally to us. So if the article said racism occurred without writing exactly what was said believe it. No one has time for games . Using the police to push a falls issue is very low. Why do we need to be petty . And as for the park lot In the back it is for my guests and one of us is alway outside making sure people leave in a timely manner and diffuse any issues if they would arise.

  7. Maybe we need to band together and ‘quietly’ fill this restaurant every night. More business for them and more witnesses to what he is dealing with.

  8. Part of the problem is there is no solid definition as to what is excessive noise and its up to the interpretation of the Officer attending who must of course witness or hear the noise and determine if its excessive or not. One Council Member recalled how expensive the noise decibel monitoring device is and that is why Police cannot measure it. Likely in the last century as the equipment is regularly used in industry so as to determine proper protection with noise levels in that type of business. Eat protection equipment is then used to mitigate damage to hearing. What should be considered in cases as the described here is to determine what levels are excessive and then for the Officer attending be able to measure the level with proper equipment. This provides somewhat of an objective manner of evidence. Then again is it just the level of the noise or should it also be determined if the noise inhibites neighbours from the enjoyment of their homes due to continued and excessive noise no matter the level of sound. Is that then determined by the attending Officer from a complaint. How does that become equally and evenly applied given each Officer could be using what they determine is excessive and another does not making it very subjective. If there are multiple complaints does that now push it past a threshold of excessive even if the intent as is mentioned is intentional and has racist motivation due to the establishment and its customers. This really just stinks and again leans heavily towards what looks to be intentional actions of complainants and possibly Police . This issue of determining whats the appropriate level of noise has to be nailed down and of course if the intent of any complaint is vixasious or vindictive and worst racist that needs to be dealt with. If there is any hint of racism from Police that needs to be investigated and if true disciplinary action taken.

    1. I think their excuse of the system being “too expensive” is bologna. I can download numerous free apps on my phone that will measure sound decibels. I call bs excuses.

  9. It could be a racial issue, but it could also be the location next to an apartment full of “older” people. They’re not accustomed to having a restaurant (particularly with a patio) next door. All it takes is one Karen or Kevin to complain. It’s a shame they don’t just come down and join in the fun!

    1. The “race” part is the racial insults and harrassment that is happening, not simply the noise complaints, though they are being used by the same people. Just wanted to make sure that was clear.

      1. To be clear….have you personally witnessed the racial insults and harassment? These are serious matters you bring up and the owners have every right to file a complaint against anyone who harassed them or insults them based on their race.

  10. I frequent this establishment with my friends almost every weekend. The owners are so welcoming and pleasant to everyone and they deserve the same courtesy as any and every other establishment in Sarnia..these tyrants otherwise known as the Sarnia police should be ashamed that they even entertain complaint calls from the same two people who keep calling from the apartment building.
    I am deeply saddened and embarrassed that the owners have to deal with this they are lovely people and it’s my favorite place to unwind on the weekend.

  11. This kind of behavior is disgusting and truly highlights what it wrong with Sarnia! We should be celebrating new independent businesses opening in the area especially those giving us diversity in cuisine. Im saddened for the owner and his family having to endure this, it cannot be easy. My husband and I have been meaning to try Reggae’s out and you can bet we will be making this a regular spot of ours.

  12. I live in Bayview Towers, yes there are nights where it is extremely loud, I can hear it from my apartment. Would I ever call the cops? No, but many patrons are drinking and driving – they park in the empty parking lot behind the building.

    1. Elisha Cleveland

      That is just like every bar everywhere… that’s not on the owners of the restaurant.

      I’m so glad that a fellow bar owner wrote this article to stand up for another! Obviously they know what all goes down with owning a bar, the noise, the police and how they handle issues etc.
      If he sees the obvious issues of racism then I 100% believe it and want to be apart of supporting this restaurant!

      Stop making excuses for racism… noise or not, the same people shouting racial slurs also exposed themselves to a child and nothing was done… seems like the wrong people are being investigated wouldn’t you think?

      Stand up for the people of colour in our town!
      Equality won’t ever happen if we keep ignoring the facts and stay blind…

      Thank you for the article!
      Apparently I’m trying new food ❤️

  13. Two things I find extremely disturbing about all of this. People using the police as a personal enforcer and the “officers discretion”. This is a simple matter of technology. For example: “Here is a ticket for speeding….428.00 and 3 points. I looked at you driving past and I think you were about 42 over” that wouldn’t fly now would it. So buy the tech. This would give the bar owner tech to make sure he isnt too loud and the complaintant tech for the same. If city police respond to multiple false building alarm calls they issue a letter letting you know, fire department-same!. This person lodging the complaint believes they are too loud. The owner believes he is not. The police officer has to decide what he believes on the spot. With belief come bias. We have all been in strong arguments where we have said things we wished we could take back because we beleived we had to win. We have even forgotten why we were fighting—winning was all it was about. So remove the belief with facts. Officer says: “We measured the levels, second time we are here. If we come again we are fining whomever, the person who called if they are within limits or the bar if they are outside of the limit.” It is easy to use the police as a personal enforcer if it is no skin off your nose and believe me police officers hate being used like that.

      1. Just a thought..
        Have you used those phone apps to measure the decibels? Having a record of the decibel level might give you some backup to fight the constant noise complaint charges. (And show the SPS what a minimal effort it would take to verify claims.)

  14. I am so saddened and disgusted not only with the people doing this to you and your family but also the police ! It is so awesome that we have this wonderful restaurant please keep fighting for your rights hate speech is a criminal offence maybe having those people charged will wake them that they live in Canada as you and that is not acceptable here, do not give up💕 my friend

  15. Sadly, I was not the least bit surprised to read this article. I was angered, frustrated and saddened. This is the Sarnia I know. I have witnessed this bullshit racism for years – a large reason why I don’t live there anymore. There is zero progression, support only goes to those who have grown up there and who look like them (white), or can fit into the mould. I will be writing letters and calling the Police, the City and the Mayor. I am thankful you wrote this article, we need change. And I can already see from the comments, a few folks still in denial, or claiming the acts “not racist”. Well it is. Bottom line. Thank you again for writing this and drawing attention to a larger issue in Sarnia that has been swept under the rug for too long.

  16. Councilor Colquhoun….interestingly, you have turned a noise issue into a racial issue. Perhaps some facts might be helpful. 1. Not every person who lodges a complaint is a racist. 2. The city of Sarnia has a noise bylaw. 3. Sarnia Police Service (SPS) are tasks to respond to citizens complaints. The SPS is tasked with a subjective assessment of the validity of a noise complaint as they are not equipped with technology to measure the decibel level of noise to determine if the noise is below, at or above the bylaw requirement. 4. Council, staff and SPS are in the process of developing a bylaw change / amendment to the existing bylaw to more closely define what constitutes excessive noise levels. 5. Lodging a complaint for noise is not sabotage. 6. The owner of any business has the right to lodge a complaint for racial slurs or harassment rather than have you act as an advocate. The complaint street does run in both directions.

  17. I have read all the comments. I live next door in the apartment building and have been in the same unit for 4.5 years. I have contacted the SPS on a few occasions to inquire about noise by laws within the building as well external noise levels. I was told it was 11pm.
    In response to the business next door…if they have been fined for playing music after 9.30 pm but before 11pm…then I agree…it is race based.
    However on the other hand I have called the reastaraunt at approx. 12.50 am to ask them to turn down the music. To me this was a noise level concern not race based.
    If I hear the music playing…I make the necessary adjustments in my unit with the
    expectation the music will be lowered at 11pm.
    Further, the discretionary powers of the Police can lead to discriminatory race based decisions and yes racism exists within our finest!
    I can attest to numerous examples of racism in this building however fear retaliation should I openly share …and I can say the former and current owners in London have in the past ignored my concerns about racism and racial slurs made against me and my granddaughter. I will get dirty looks and slurs behind my back after sharing this…but …whatever. Im glad this issue is being brought to light. We -I have experienced racism from certain Sarnia Police Officers.
    I am Indigenous and care for my 4 year old granddaughter and know all to well what racism is ..feels like and looks like.
    Should the business next door wish to use my balcony to gauge the ” music” …level….they are welcomed to do so.!

      1. They made this article without proper research. This business was kicked out of London for noise as well. There are people here that complain about noise at “reasonable” hours but I doubt it is racially motivated as I have had a few complaints of being noisy earlier than 9pm and I am white. There are some people here that have to get up to work at early hours, one is a Front Line working nurse at the Hospital. They are not noisy every night but there have been times where they have had the music cranked and play steel drums late into the night. This is a residential area.

      2. Clearly, you have no idea what constitutes a “residential area”. And ironically, you clearly don’t feel the need to complain about or point out the many, many instances of homeless, drug users, etc. in the area causing just as much of a “nuisance”, noise or otherwise.

    1. No one called us. And It is impossible for you to here music that is being played in a basement. Maybe to should come over sometime and see for your where things are being done than follow what others told you. No music is played on the main level where the restaurant is located. When will you guys stop tell lies.

  18. Anne Elizabeth Niblock

    I live in the building next door and have talked to the manager. He was a very pleasant young man. I did not realize all this racism was going on. As for the man exposing himself, he should be arrested. As I live at the farther side of the building I have never heard noise from the restaurant. However I have heard a lot of yelling and screaming in the back parking lot well after midnight.
    We also hear concerts at the park and music from Paddys and the Marina. I like my windows open all summer but if I close them I do not hear anything.
    It is nice that the younger generations of Sarnia have a place like this to come to. I like this kind of music also. However I hope people will keep down the noise in the parking lot as the manager is getting blamed and he can do nothing about what goes on in the parking lot.

  19. Building Superintendents daughter

    Im not sure who you are accusing of racism, the tenants in the building, the police or the building superintendent!? I am still considered being in the young generation and like to party! I am aware that some sarnia residents still are racist on many levels! But i for one can personally stand up for the superintendent of the building next door and state the he is differently not racist at all against anyone, not by race,colour or chosen life choices! The superintendent himself is happily married to a man who he has been with for many years, they have many children living within sarnia, one of these children is bi, they also have many grand children that are bi,gay,non-binary,and transgender! The blood that runs through abd makes up this whole family are from multiple races! There us white, native, german, scottish, and jamaican! Im not fully aware of the situation with the noise complaints as im not living next door to the restaurant but i can insure you on behalf of the superintendent it is not racism! Please check all your facts before claiming its racism. From the superintendents daughter

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