The Wall Street Journal‘s Katy McLaughlin picks on a few loud restaurants:
Many of the most cutting-edge, design conscious restaurants are introducing a new level of noise to today’s already voluble restaurant scene. The new noisemakers: Restaurants housed in cavernous spaces with wood floors, linen-free tables, high ceilings and lots of windows—all of which cause sound to ricochet around what are essentially hard-surfaced echo chambers.
Upscale restaurants have done away with carpeting, heavy curtains, tablecloths, and plush banquettes gradually over the decade, and then at a faster pace during the recession, saying such touches telegraph a fine-dining message out of sync with today’s cost-conscious, informal diner. Those features, though, were also sound absorbing. . . .
Restaurateurs often say the only complaints they get about noise are from older clientele. As people age—and particularly when they are 65 or older—they often lose acuity in hearing high-frequency sounds, making it harder to understand speech, says Mark Ross, a professor emeritus of audiology at the University of Connecticut.
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But even some younger diners are irked. Danielle Stillman, 23, says she spent $70 on a graduation dinner for a friend at The Grove in Houston about six months ago. The goal of the meal was to catch up after not seeing each other for a while, but Ms. Stillman could barely hear her friend speak, she says.
“I want to have a conversation without having to scream ‘what?’ at the top of my lungs,” says Ms. Stillman, an energy analyst.
The Grove, in a new building with glass walls and hardwood floors, has acoustical bunting layered behind boards in the wood ceiling, says partner Robert Del Grande. There is also a quieter room with carpeting. Nevertheless, when the restaurant is full, it can get loud, he says.