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Impossibly noisy restaurants -- what can be done

Original post made by David Lieberman, Professorville, on Sep 12, 2006

We ate at a downtown restaurant last weekend. Food and service were pretty good, if a bit overpriced, BUT,

There was "background music" which consisted of a continuous very loud beat (boom, boom, boom,...) whose sole purpose seemed to be to make normal conversation impossible.

This seems to be a "feature" of eating out in the 21st century. Apparently restaurant owners think that the public wants it. However, everyone I know finds it obnoxious. I never return to such restaurants.

Why do restaurants do this? Do they think it creates a "buzz"? Do they want patrons to leave quickly for increased table turnover rather than lingering and chatting? Do they think conversation is "so 20th century"?

The SF Chronicle now gives a noise rating to restaurants in its reviews (one to four bells and a "bomb" to the worst offenders) and I suggest that the Weekly do the same.

I also intend to start writing letters to offending restaurants telling the proprietor that I will not be back and the reason for that decision.


Comments (15)

Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 12, 2006 at 10:04 am


How old are you?

Posted by David Lieberman
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 12, 2006 at 10:12 am

John, I get your point. This may well be a generational issue. And in answer to your question I get a check from the government each month. But I would be interested in hearing from people in their 20s and 30s. Do you like it? Expect it? And if so, why?


Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 12, 2006 at 1:28 pm

I made the point because I live it. I personally prefer quiet eateries. That's why I don't frequent the noisy ones.

But I've been like this since I WAS in my 20s.

Posted by Mike
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2006 at 5:23 pm

Vote with your feet and wallet.

Posted by Craig
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2006 at 10:21 pm

While I don't consider this a major social problem, or an "issue" requiring legislative action, I agree personally with David as a matter of taste. I hate trying to have a conversation when music is blaring at a restaurant. There's a perfect range where you get the experience of enjoying the music, but can still carry on a conversation without screaming. I hate noisy bars too. All we can really do is frequent places that care about creating a good atmosphere.
I recently went to Cascal on Castro st. in MV, and they had some wonderful music that was loud. I was seated quite far from the band, and the volume at that location was perfect - loud enough to really make it an experience, but still within a range where you could chat. If you were close to the band though, I think you wouldn't be able to.
Now, as far as demographics go, I'm 32, but all through my 20's I felt the same about noisy bars where you have to scream your drink order.

Posted by To David
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 13, 2006 at 9:49 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff]

I agree with you regarding the loud music which is unnecessary. I steer clear of restaurants with bad acoustics so it's loud with human voices, too. I deal with noise all day long at work, and lots of noise pollution when I'm out and about. I don't care to pay to have to listen to bad, loud music and overly loud people. If you have the time to address the issue to restaurants via letter writing or sending emails, I think it's a considerate thing to do. I also work part time in a restaurant, and I cringe when the owner turns the music up loud.

Posted by trudy
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 14, 2006 at 5:14 pm

What about loud music in supermarkets and drugstores? Do they want to drive their customers away on purpose?

Posted by Swag Valance
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 15, 2006 at 9:24 am

C'mon?! Who *doesn't* want to get nasty on the tables with a little bump and grind to the sound of the beat somewhere between crudités and the soup course?

Isn't that what dining out is all about?

Posted by zomg
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 15, 2006 at 10:09 am

i'm guessing 1 more minute before mr. publisher deletes that post. AND THIS ONE !!! :o

Posted by Carol
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 15, 2006 at 7:47 pm

Maybe I am unusual, but I haven't come across the problem or if I have, maybe I just enjoy the music. But in answer to Judy, I think I quite like going round the supermarket with pleasant music to help pass away the time - in fact I can say that I prefer music to listening to commercials about how great the supermarket is and how wonderful the weekly specials are.

Posted by Marcello
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2006 at 6:08 pm

I am still in my 20s and like David I really dislike noisy restaurants (music or bad acoustic). I hate it when I almost have to yell to my friends so they can hear me.
Unfortunately now it looks like only upscale restaurants are quiet :-(

Could it be because now restaurants want to look like bars/lounges?

Posted by Nat
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 5, 2006 at 2:19 pm

A friend of mine and I ate at Cascal's recently. It was very very noisey, but not from music. The noise level was from customers and perhaps the wait staff. We sat by the front window and couldn't hear each other even though we were sitting across from each other at a tiny table! It was the noisiest ambience I remember ever experiencing at a restaurant. The food was not that good, not enough to motivate me to return. The acoustics are just terrible in that space. People were not shouting, were talking at normal levels. The problem is the space. The restaurant could use acoustical tiles perhaps to quiet the sound. Didn't the noise bother others who have eaten there? Let us know if you had the same experience at Cascal's.

Posted by Nat
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 1, 2006 at 1:39 pm

I think I made a mistake above. The noisey restaurant was DishDash, not Cascal's. sorry

Posted by Grandma
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2007 at 4:59 am

I agree constant background noise in restaurants is generational. Restaurant owners, particularly the fanchises, will tell you the younger generation is motivated and excited by NOISE, and they simply gravitate to noisy restaurants because that's where the action is.

There is a particularly noisy restaurant on Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park which I will no longer go to; but it is always full with the under 35 crowd, and people are waiting to get in. Noise and crowds equal profits - it's as simple as that!!!!

David, I suggest you go to a restaurant that caters to your generation.

Posted by Diner
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2007 at 8:55 am

To take the opposite view for a minute, I went out for a meal to an out of town restaurant recently with my mother (70s), me (50s) and my daughter and neice (teens and 20s). It was not a large restaurant and about half the tables were in use (where I was seated it was hard to actually see the other diners). The place was so silent it was off putting. The wait staff practically whispered and the other tables spoke so silently it was as if they weren't there. We chatted quietly to each other, but felt we couldn't laugh or make any loud noise. All of us felt uncomfortable and agreed that some background music may have helped. The food was wonderful, but the ambience was strained.

Possibly I am used to a more noisy environment, but my mother definitely isn't and even she felt that the silence was a bit creepy. As we left we all physically relaxed and the journey home was quite loud and fun. Strange, but the quiet atmosphere almost ruined a pleasant evening out.

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