The ‘noisy bar’ debate isn’t new – the age old debate of club versus pub, sports bar versus restaurant; across the industry, opinions of the ‘appropriate’ level of noise for any establishment are rarely the same. But what’s appropriate isn’t the only thing to factor in when adjusting your volume dial.

The first thing to consider is the overall feel of your bar, including the clientele – suddenly playing loud rock music may be welcome in some places, but in a family pub during Sunday lunch, you might cause a bit of a commotion! A little bit of flexibility with music ‘policy’ can also help – that same pub could benefit from a party atmosphere on New Year’s Eve. Adapt to the day-to-day situation by listening to the mood and requests of your customers, and the expected mood of the evening.

The level of noise your establishment produces can also have an effect on the conditions of your premises license –  prolonged disturbance to any residences around you could result in an imposed curfew, or even a ban on any live music. This kind of penalty would also have a negative effect should you want to make any future changes or expansions to your license.

A slightly more overlooked aspect of noise in a bar is the health implications. Constant elevated noise can pose not only a risk to your patron’s hearing, but to your staff’s as well; and while your patrons can choose to step outside at any point, your staff cannot.

From 80db onwards – that’s somewhere between a vacuum cleaner and a food blender – the Health and Safety Executive recommends making hearing protection available, or providing information so that they can acquire their own. Although that doesn’t seem very loud, prolonged exposure at this level can cause permanent damage – imagine spending an entire eight-hour shift stood next to a running blender!

There are many easy ways to help your staff – and by extension, help your customers. Small, handheld Decibel monitors are cheap and easy to read, normally with a digital display and a microphone on the end. Even cheaper are multipacks of foam earplugs that your staff can use – many concert venues even provide these to patrons during particularly loud events. Considering some live music acts exceed 120db, they’re definitely a good idea!

At the end of the day, keeping an appropriate noise level means that patrons and staff are comfortable. If both are happy, you have the recipe for a productive workplace!


For more information and advice, please see the HSE website.