Recently one of the first questions we were asked about a just-opened brewery came as a bit of a surprise. Rather than ask about the beer or hours or something like that, our reader asked us this simple question: “How loud is it inside?”
While we could answer “not too loud,” we did so by comparing it to other places. As more and more people flock to the breweries and taprooms, the volume is clearly becoming an issue for many people. Throw in live music and/or music being pumped in over the sound system, and some places are almost deafening. This is starting to become a major issue, especially for those of us whose ages are creeping upward and whose long histories of listening to heavy metal way too loudly is coming back to haunt us. In truth, even some youngsters in their 20s have been complaining to us about the noise levels, so it’s not just us almost-40 curmudgeons for a change.
Boese Brothers, in particular, was excessively loud when they first opened. The double whammy of high ceilings and lots of windows combined to make it a torturous sound chamber. In response, the staff put special sound padding underneath the tables. They did not want to change the look of the place by putting padding on the walls or ceiling. Having stopped in there after a metal show the other night (and yes, I wore my ear plugs at Launchpad, sparing what’s left), the volume from the music and customers was still rather loud. I was surprised Brandon and Porter Pounder could hear me, but that had more to do with the fact those knuckleheads didn’t wear ear plugs for the 1349 show. (Norwegian black metal, look ’em up.)
Marble downtown has long had a reputation as an impossible place to hear people when it gets crowded. It has gotten better after the taproom renovations earlier this year, but on a jam-packed night recently we had to retreat to the frozen patio once Le Chat Lunatique started playing inside, or else hearing each other would have been impossible. (Which was a bummer, because we like that band as a nice change of pace from the metal.)
A recent gathering at Tractor Wells Park saw the staff actually crank the music louder inside once a large crowd had formed. The downside, of course, was this crowd was meant to be a social gathering for young entrepreneurs/event organizers. It is kind of hard to meet and talk with new people when some hipster band is being blasted over the speakers.
Finding a solution for the breweries figures to be tough. It is not cheap to put those insulation-like pads up top or down below (take note that Quarter Celtic was already putting those in place, due to their large windows and high ceilings), especially for established places. Many breweries are proud of the look inside their taprooms, having worked hard to create a certain visual vibe to go with their beers. They are loathe to slap up padding on the walls or ceilings that could change this.
Some solutions — enough with pumping in tunes from Spotify/Pandora/someone’s iPod, or at least turn it down — might seem easier than others. (And no, we’re not going to get into a debate over musical styles; obviously the breweries in town do not ever play the music the Crew listens to, but that’s OK, we still show up for the beer.) In some cases, there may just be nothing places can do. Some have installed all the sound padding they can, yet it remains terribly loud once the joint fills up.
We want to hear from all of you, however. What solutions would you propose to turn down the volume? Are there some cost-effective ones that breweries could try? Should us old folks just stay home during peak hours/weekends? What works best for the breweries and their customers?
Fire off all the ideas you can think of, be it by commenting below, on Facebook, on Twitter (@nmdarksidebc), or email us some ideas at email@example.com. If you have some good ideas, we will of course share them with the breweries where you think the noise is becoming unbearable.
And after you are done with that, go out and have fun this weekend. Remember, Victory at Sea Day at Nob Hill Bar & Grill kicks off at 4 p.m. Saturday. Otherwise, there will be plenty of fun events and good beers to drink at the breweries all weekend.
Just don’t be ashamed to take some ear plugs with you.
4 Comments Add yours
I’m glad somebody raised this issue. Boese was noisy on my only visit. Ponderosa was deafening. I applaud (softly) those places like Kaktus where there has been a conscious decision not to have TVs. You can actually have a reasonable conversation. Sometimes sitting at the bar, like at Turtle Mountain, it seems quieter. Bosque seems to be pretty quiet…at least when I’ve visited. The big cavernous places seem to have the problem and if you add loud music and a crowd shouting to be heard it becomes impossible
My question would be two fold. When should the band start and how loud should it be?
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I think when there is a live band, people expect the increase in volume. Just having a fairly consistent start time for bands, or make sure you just post it so people know a band is coming on that night. In terms of volume, that’s probably dependent on the type of music.
I have tinnitus and hearing loss from working too many shows in the concert biz without earplugs (seriously, young folks, earplugs are your friends! Use them!) and have a lot of problems hearing at some local taprooms as a result. The observation that concrete floors, high ceilings, metal roofs/beams, and metal tables/chairs don’t make for great acoustics is spot-on. But many times I also feel that the younger taproom employees crank the music so they can hear it while they’re working, without realizing that “audible” where they’re standing may mean “deafening” for people who are in a different part of the taproom. (I also think younger people have a totally different tolerance for loud music, and I can say that with authority since I was one once.) It’s important for taproom employees to know things like “if the volume knob is at 7, that means the people on the far side of the room are getting their eardrums blown out.” That takes assessment by the taproom managers, and then training of the employees.
As I am now sitting on the other side of “older and wiser” when it comes to hearing problems, I always prefer the volume of music to be lower, so I can hear my companions talking. I don’t expect to go to a live show and experience modulated volume. But I have been in a couple of taprooms now where the soundsystem music playing over the speakers was louder than what I experienced at some of the live shows I worked. I think that for most people, slightly lower is better than louder when it comes to music volume over the soundsystem. When you add music + many simultaneous conversations + normal business activity sounds + sound resonance off hard surfaces – you’re getting into serious decibels. It absolutely is an issue for a lot of us.