Rock'n roll will never die, say the owners of the Empire Tavern who have locked horns with new apartment-dwelling neighbours and the Auckland City Council.

In the latest inner-city noise battle, pub owners Dean Lodge and Michael Ocego are adamant live rock music will continue playing from a garden bar in Victoria St.

House bands have been pumping out loud music for years in the commercial area but that is under threat now thanks to high-rise apartment buildings across the road on land long used for parking.

Mr Lodge and Mr Ocego have been working at getting the noise down by monitoring house band DNA's music on Friday, cancelling bands on Thursdays and limiting music to DJs on Saturdays, but are still having difficulty sticking to a 45 decibel permitted noise level set by the council.

"I don't see why something like Victopia [apartment building] should come along 18 months ago and affect the livelihood of a business that has been functioning as a live music venue for the last couple of decades. It feels very wrong," Mr Lodge said.

On the 13th floor of the Victopia building, business consultant Kas Ikeda says the booming noise from the Empire causes sleepless nights. He and other residents have called in council noise officers and demanded action against the tavern.

"The more noise, the more sales, the more profits," says Mr Ikeda, who has had recordings of 50 decibels in his bedroom at 2am on Saturdays.

In a letter to Mayor Dick Hubbard and officers, he asked: "Can't we sleep until 2am on every Friday for the rest of our lives?" and "Do we have to use ear plugs inside our apartments?"

Mr Ikeda and other residents began complaining to the council soon after Victopia opened in May last year. After months of complaints and a claim by the pub for existing use rights to continue, the council is seeking "guidance" from the Environment Court to resolve the noise issues.

It is not the first time unwanted noise has clashed with the encroachment of apartments and the council's stated goal of a vibrant, exciting inner-city.

In the late 1990s when fewer than 4000 people lived downtown, broadcaster Mikey Havoc had numerous run-ins with officialdom over noise control when he owned and managed The Squid nightclub in O'Connell St.

Judith Tabron, owner of Soul Bar & Bistro at Viaduct Harbour, said she had spent $100,000 replacing the sound system and making improvements to keep noise levels to 65 decibels before 11pm and 60 decibels after 11pm.

"We want to be a good partner to our residents," Judith Tabron said.

Heart of the City chief executive Alex Swney said high-density housing was good for the inner-city but residents had to understand they were not living in the suburbs and life would be a bit noisier.

Council documents show the Victopia apartment was ticked off in 2003 in accordance with noise levels in the central area part of the district plan, which says "the levels proposed are quite liberal". The council is proposing a change to the district plan that will mean inner-city residential apartments will have to be insulated to provide a maximum indoor noise level of 35 decibels in bedrooms and 45 decibels in other rooms, while taking into account existing noise levels in the area.

Asked why the council was only now tightening the noise levels permitted after thousands of residential apartments had been built in the inner-city, council planning manager John Duthie said: "We did have a pretty full range of noise suites ... there have been some learnings and we are doing some adjustments."