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Eat LA takes on noise: When is a restaurant too loud?

Inside Bottega Louie, regarded as one of Los Angeles' loudest restaurants.
Inside Bottega Louie, regarded as one of Los Angeles' loudest restaurants.
Muy Yum/Flickr (cc by nc/nd)

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And so it goes at many LA restaurants and bars. The food’s good, the décor is smashing, but the noise level is on a par with Runway 24 at LAX. This time on Eat LA, we’re setting our taste buds aside in favor of our ears: does too much sound ruin an otherwise good meal? Or does it make it even better? And how do restaurateurs deal with noise?

"I’ve been writing about LA restaurants since the ‘80s, so I know this is nothing new," said Eat: Los Angeles publisher Colleen Bates. "But I’m still baffled about why people put up with it. Sure, going out to eat or drink is as much about the conviviality as the quality of the comestibles, so I get that people are drawn to liveliness. But when you have to scream so your date can hear you, what’s the point?"

"The most baffling of all has been downtown’s Bottega Louie," Bates continued. "I love the place in the off hours. But oh my god, the noise level at peak times is crushing. Even my teenage daughter couldn’t wait to get out of there. And yet big groups meet there to eat every night. I guess they don’t have much to say to each other. "

But how loud is loud? Bates met Off-Ramp producer Kevin Ferguson at Seventh and Grand, just outside Bottega Louie. To be as scientific as possible, they brought along our very own decibel reader.

In this episode, Eat LA also talks with restaurant owner Yassmin Sarmadi, of Church & State, another cacophonous downtown dining destination about how she tries to walk the fine line between conviviality and din. Luques, AOC Wine Bar and Tavern co-owner Caroline Styne talks about how difficult it is to keep her three popular restaurants quiet. And Aidan Demarest, bartender and co-owner of Glendale's Neat Bar, explains that loud music and noise actually encourages patrons to drink more.