Dear Restaurants: Please Stop Playing Live Music

Restaurants, we have to talk.

An illustration of an furious diner in the foreground, with someone singing in the background.

Serious Eats

Restaurants, we have to talk. You remember back in college, there was always that guy with his acoustic guitar who insisted on breaking up a party so he could drunkenly play his stumbled rendition of Smoke on the Water?

Every time you host live music, you become that guy.

You know when we're talking on the subway, and a group of teenagers shout "It's Showtime!" and blare scratchy rap from their boombox for the next two minutes, and by the time they're done collecting donations we've completely forgotten what we were talking about?

You're doing the showtime thing.

Please stop.

Here is why I go to restaurants: to eat good food with my friends and family and engage in illuminating conversation with them about the issues of the day.

That maybe-good, maybe-terrible band you're paying peanuts to play in your dining room? Here's why they're there: to be heard, and to sell CDs I guess.

As far as they're concerned, the best way to accomplish those goals is to play as loudly as possible, regardless of the size, configuration, or acoustics of the room they're in. This isn't fun. It sucks. My date and I can't hear each other and this music, well, it's not 'Smoke on the Water,' but let's just say it's not a hit.

It's not totally their fault. Bands are used to playing on stages, much like bears are used to eating salmon in the wild and Robyn is used to sitting at her computer drawing faces on figs. But bears have terrible table manners and they know to stay out of restaurants. Bands should, too.

A band in its natural environment. Not your restaurant.

Serious Eats / Robyn Lee

It doesn't help that this is only part of the problem. Restaurants are getting louder. But I know how to avoid hot, newish places that attract screamers and shouty bros. I don't know when you, casual neighborhood restaurant I enjoy as much for your casual neighborhoodiness as for your food, are hosting live music, because your website doesn't say and your Twitter account is silent on the matter. What gives? We had a thing going, your dining room and me, and then it got unbearably loud without warning and now I just want to call it a night.

I get it. You want to show us that you know how to have fun. And maybe if you're a bar that's okay; we expect that from bars sometimes. But you're a restaurant, and for the next 45 to 90 minutes I'm stuck in this chair, listening to this band I don't know and didn't consent to, slowly resenting you and your choices while I shout to be heard.

No, I will not be staying for dessert.

No, I don't want any coffee.

I want to go home. And I'm not the only one who's out of here.

October 2013