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Jack Zaleski, Published June 21 2009

Zaleski: Column struck an auditory nerve

The reaction to last week’s column, “Dial down noise in restaurants,” was surprising and heartening. It was surprising in its intensity. I really struck an auditory nerve. It was heartening because every response agreed with what I had to say. Every one. That’s a first.

Here is a sampling:

A few hours after last Sunday’s paper hit the boxes on my rural route, a neighbor came by to cheer. “We know exactly what you’re saying,” he said. “We love the food at (no restaurant names, please), but because of the noise and loud music we call in an order, pick it up and bring it home.” Of course, that means my neighbors don’t buy drinks or desserts at the noisy place …

A newspaper colleague in another town wrote: “My wife and I just quit going to ______ because of the noise. I sometimes will go there with a few of my buddies, but when it’s my wife and me, we find another place … that is quiet.”

A reader from rural Minnesota who comes to Fargo-Moorhead frequently to dine and shop called to say: “The first thing we do – that is my family – is huddle and decide where we’re going to eat. Noise is the big factor. It just turns us off, even the kids who are teenagers.”

It’s not just older restaurant patrons. There was this from a 20-something: “If I want noise and music I’ll go to a club or a bar. But when me and my fiancée go out to a restaurant, we want to be able to talk without shouting at each other. Gettin’ hard to find a good place.”

A woman wrote in a letter to the editor (June 19): “ ‘Dial down noise in restaurants.’ Yes, yes, yes.” Another writer that same day: “Thank you a million times (for the column). (You) really hit it on the head.”

Another newspaper colleague said the restaurant with her family’s favorite food is also her least favorite place because of the noise levels. When they asked management to turn down the loud music and control the general racket, they were told it was “our ambience.” They quit going there, she said.

A common theme in all the comments was the contrast between locally owned restaurants and the chains. Most of the local places cited by readers do not assault their patrons with obnoxious music and head-rattling background noise.

And to be fair, not every chain restaurant in town is an acoustical nightmare, my readers said. But their sentiments about F-M eateries comported with a national survey by Consumer Reports magazine that found noise is the No. 1 complaint of chain restaurant patrons. Anybody in the restaurant business listening?

Readers can reach Forum Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521