Douglas Todd: Everyone suffers from loud restaurants and bars

Opinion: Fortunately, there are many ways that customers and staff can tackle deafening dining establishments.

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It’s maddening when a party is for the most part destroyed when you inadvertently choose a restaurant or pub that plays blaring music.


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It’s not just the customers who suffer. The same goes for many restaurant and bar workers, who can experience progressive hearing damage after working long hours in high-decibel environments.

Fortunately, there are ways for customers and staff to fight back.

Quietly, but effectively.

Excessive noise shouldn’t have the final say in the hospitality and retail industry, especially as the pandemic becomes more manageable and more Christmas events loom.

Perhaps it is the extra calm we have had to be in our homes because of the coronavirus, but few topics these days seem to heat up social media like a discussion of blaring music in restaurants, pubs and bars, not to mention shops.

Almost all North Americans now have stories of going out marred by thoroughly recorded music, apparently in an attempt to create a “buzz” for patrons, who otherwise would probably succumb to boredom.


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The assumption of many hospitality entrepreneurs in the US and Canada seems to be that real conversation is a dying art, so there is a need to create “energy” by forcing people to scream.

John Martyn, president of the Right to Quiet Society for Soundscape Awareness and Protection, in a (quiet) restaurant in Abbotsford.
John Martyn, president of the Right to Quiet Society for Soundscape Awareness and Protection, in a (quiet) restaurant in Abbotsford. Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

Sadly, the cynics are also not mistaken when they report that numerous industrial psychological studies have shown that hammered music encourages people to eat, and especially to drink, more.

The volume problem is not as prevalent in Europe, where places are generally quieter and owners seem to believe that guests, including younger generations, enjoy talking to each other in an intimate way.

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While some customers are offering new ways to voice their protests, some young restaurant, pub and bar workers are also making it clear that they have listened enough.


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WorkSafeBC, a provincial agency, received 3,343 applications for noise-induced hearing loss disability benefits in a recent five-year period, some of which were from the service sector (most from even more industrial jobs). noisy). All workplaces that operate over 85 decibels on a typical shift are officially considered a health risk in British Columbia

“Noise is a serious and widespread problem in many workplaces, including the service industry,” says Dan Strand of WorkSafeBC, who has worked to educate service industry workers on how to protect their privacy. hearing and reporting loud pubs, bars and restaurants.

While employees and others can file anonymous complaints in noisy workplaces at 1-888-621-7233, WorkSafeBC has also produced videos encouraging reception and kitchen staff to wear ear plugs. hear. Such devices not only protect hearing, they also make it easier to read what people are saying in a noisy environment.

We apologize, but this video failed to load.


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Earplugs, however, aren’t exactly an attractive option for people who just want to spend the money, often a lot, to have a good time and strike up a conversation.

What recourse does the public have in the face of a noisy establishment?

A variety of things happen when you politely ask servers or managers if they can turn the volume down. Some do. Some do it for a section of seats. Some do, but only for 15 minutes. Some pretend. Some say no, and it quickly becomes apparent that it’s the staff who like heavy rhythm. Others say the sound of thunder is crucial to the establishment’s “vibe”.

Another option for a potential client is to immediately leave the premises and not return. It seems that many potential diners in Metro Vancouver often do just that – the most helpful informing the establishment why.


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Restaurant reviews would also do us a great favor by consistently including noise levels in their reviews.

I recently ran an unscientific Twitter poll that asked, “Do you want restaurant reviews to include noise levels in their reviews?” “Nineteen out of 20 voted” Yes “.


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John Martyn, president of Right to Quiet (Society for Soundscape Awareness and Protection), explains how technology is helping the anti-noise cause.

A new software application is proving effective in allowing users to easily test the decibel levels of any entertainment or hospitality venue. A form of crowdsourcing, the Soundprint app allows anyone to share the noise levels of a particular location online.

“We know restaurant and pub owners don’t raise music to make less money. They do it because they believe it will bring them more profit, ”said Martyn, who heads the Canadian organization from its base in Abbotsford.

Soundprint, Martyn said, has already taken off in the United States, where greater usage has created a “better statistical profile” of each facility. “It doesn’t take a lot of app users to make the snowball roll.

Just as smoking, perfumes, and mandatory high heels for service workers have been banned in many workplaces across North America, Martyn is striving to reach the day when debilitating noise will no longer be tolerated in workplaces. catering establishments.

This, he said, would give customers and workers the chance to go about their business in a more dignified manner.




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