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NY Post
New York Post
21 Oct 2023

NextImg:Restaurants in NYC are now nosier than ever

The NYC Hospitality Alliance, a restaurant advocacy organization, last week rightly called for a crackdown on unscrupulous “bounty hunters” who earn fees for reporting alleged outdoor noise violations to the city.

Restaurants that blare music onto streets in residential neighborhoods are an occasional nuisance.

But the much more common horror, which is both socially destructive and medically hazardous, is intolerable noise INSIDE restaurants — a 21st Century plague from simple taco joints to Michelin-starred temples of fine dining.

Shouting along with one’s meal might not faze younger customers who regard it as a kind of welcome background thrum.

Maybe it’s because so many Gen-Z’ers no longer speak on phones in favor of texting, and spend so much silent time at computer screens that it’s liberating to scream over a plate of overpriced artisanal spaghetti.

But I eat out most nights and days.

A prime consideration in where to go — especially with people I haven’t recently seen — isn’t the type of cuisine or the quality of service or how much it costs.

Rather, it’s whether we’ll be able to hear each other without needing to place our mouths so close to our companions’ faces that spectators suggest we “get a room.”

Intolerable restaurant noise has multiple causes, but it has a single effect: it extends to a supposedly insulated interior setting the disorder and incivility of the streets.

We once went out to eat to escape the rough-and-tumble of daily life. Now, the mayhem that increasingly envelops every block and corner — thundering, illegal off-road vehicles; wrong-way e-bikers; construction-site jackhammering; and random raving maniacs — pales in comparison to dining-room racket.

The cacophony reigns at many restaurants I’ve written about this year. 

It’s easier to text across the table at Tatiana, Le Rock, Bad Roman, Sartiano’s, and Cafe Chelsea than to discuss work, kids, the Mideast — or just to ask, “What’s new?”

The Korean steakhouse Cote is known for its prime cuts of meat and high decibel levels — an increasing problem across New York City.
Stefano Giovannini

Even my younger friends in their twenties and thirties couldn’t stand it.

One couple insisted on skipping dessert at Le Rock despite swooning over the rest of their meal and the dramatic Rockefeller Center location.

No wonder so many private restaurants, such as Casa Cipriani and Casa Cruz, have recently popped up in the Big Apple where they once were rare.

One of the reasons restaurants are so loud is that many owners have removed table linens because caring for them can cost so much money.
Stefano Giovannini for NY Post

Their food might not be the greatest but at least you won’t walk out with a sore throat and headache.

Nor will you need a follow-up conversation with your friends, lovers, would-be lovers, and colleagues to find out if they said what you thought they said.

Numerous factors contribute to owners’ inability or unwillingness to tame sound levels.

Some deliberately engineer their places to be loud.

Dino Arpaia, who owns Cellini in Midtown, recently put sound-muffling tablecloths back on tables to help keep the chaos in check.
Brian Zak/NY Post

They know that for too many younger customers, excruciating decibel levels are as synonymous with cool as goofy TikTok postings.

High rents prompt owners to wring the last dime out of their dining rooms, so tables are positioned to pack in as many bodies as possible.

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And the cost of just getting a new place open leaves no money left for proper sound-reduction efforts.

Laundering table linen alone can cost a 100-seat bistro $70,000 a year

Among the few brave restaurateurs to reverse course, is my friend Dino Arpaia, who owns Cellini in Midtown.

He recently put sound-muffling tablecloths back after going a few months without them when he realized the din was not to his customers’ taste.

I hope, perhaps in vain, that others will come to their senses.

The largest, overlooked reason to keep things loud is exquisitely simple — and diabolical. Namely, to turn tables as swiftly as possible.

Dr.  Darius Kohan, M. D., who’s the director of otology and neurotology at Lenox Hill Hospital/Manhattan Eye, Ear & Throat Hospital, has seen almost as many restaurants as he has ears.

“This isn’t a scientific [analysis] but common-sense business. The model is, you want more people in and out for faster turnover. If you’re not comfortable [due to too much noise], it makes no sense to dwell there,” he chuckled.

Ear and hearing specialists have seen serious hearing loss in eaters who dine out most nights of the week.

Kohan, who’s treated patients suffering from hearing loss as a result of prolonged exposure to restaurant noise, said the danger is actually greatest to employees — even though federal OSHA regulations warn of permanent ear damage at decibel levels above 70. (My meter has registered many readings up to 90,   equivalent to the roar of a motorcycle passing close by.)

But the threat is to us all, victims of a civic breakdown that spares no one even when the joy of dining should provide a rare and precious refuge from it.