A fact that explains a lot about why I hate certain bars

According to a Popular Science story published earlier this month, turning up the volume of music in a bar increases the rate at which the patrons drink. Which I suppose makes sense. When you can't talk to anybody, you always have booze to be your friend. In fact, a 22 percent increase in music volume yields a 26 percent increase in alcohol consumption. That answers my long-standing question about why you'd want to make your bar ungodly unpleasant to be in. But, sadly, it also suggests that the problem won't be fixed any time soon.


  1. Flawed research? I don’t go to some places because of the volume so they’ve forgotten about opportunity cost.

    1. If one treats the decision to finish one’s drink in an obnoxiously loud bar as something entirely incompatible with the decision to never ever drink there again, then one might expect universal loudness. One suspects, however, that one doesn’t.

    2. While it might take some money off the table, the optimal patron in terms of drinks purchased per hour is exactly the the kind of person who cheerfully tolerates a deafening bar.

    3. Not flawed research. This is a difference between introverts like you (about 1/4 of people) and extroverts (about 3/4 of people) it is a telling one.

    1.  Restaurants also deliberately engineered to be noisy; high ceilings, bare surfaces, etc. And people swear this adds to the appeal, that it makes one think the restaurant is “happening,” as opposed to a quiet one. Idiotic. I’d rather eat in a place that’s going out of business if that’s what it takes to have a meal in peace.

      1. In the UK, Pizza Express are particularly bad for this in chain restaurants. And All-Bar-One in chain bars. I wonder if distaste for this approach correlates with age-related hearing loss.  

      2. I’ve been to Boston’s pizza in Tempe while my table was the only occupied one in the restaurant.  There was deafening noise that could only have been coming from the kitchen.

  2. “When you can’t talk to anybody, you always have booze to be your friend.”

    What’s weird though is that people DO talk to each other in these loud places, adding to the din. I don’t know how they do it. I was at Dinosaur Jr. the other night and people were talking to each other as if they felt there was some chance of being heard.

    1. Loud places are frequented by people who like to talk a lot (they think silences are socially awkward) but have very little to say of substance. The loud music conveniently masks this deficiency and “conversation” is a mere ritual connoting presence and importance.

  3. When you can’t talk to anybody, you always have booze to be your friend.

    Not sure if this is supposed to be a joke or not, but I always thought that the idea was more din -> louder talking -> sorer throats -> more lubricant ordered.

  4. Bars are always dark and loud. If you can’t see or hear someone, you can’t talk to them. Because if you’re talking, you’re not drinking.

  5. This is why I hate going out to bars (and “clubs” are even worse).  Summer time is best because there’s always a garden or outdoor seating of some kind but in the winter I just try to go to house parties or limit visits to “safe” bars.

  6. This does not explain the arrangement of bars that aren’t even sports bars, such that there is no way to sit without having a TV in your field of vision, always showing a sports channel.  Even if the volume is such that you can talk to people at your table, it makes it harder for me when there’s always a flickering light just off to one side of their head – it’s just hard for me to look them in the eyes.

    Often the sport event of the day will be some kind of mixed martial arts.  I don’t care why I went out, I would really prefer not to watch brutal beatings.

    1.  From experience I can tell you it is the most frequent customer request. 
      I would never watch sports on TV, it comes on and changes channel when demanded by people buying product and services. 
      Try asking your bartender to turn it off.  They’ll gladly comply if they haven’t been asked by another customer to turn it on. 
      Being too busy to channel surf I typically pass the remote to the patron.  They love it.   

  7. What’s the source of the 22/26% claim? I didn’t see it in the linked article.

    Doesn’t it make sense that the people who are looking to drink more could also be attracted to louder (more party-like) bars and restaurants?

    1.  I saw the 22%/26% right at the top of the linked article.  But the 22% louder doesn’t make any sense.  Loudness is usually measured in decibels, and that is already a log scale, so 22% on a log scale is just a very dumb statement.

      See the Din at Dinner blog:

      1. Ok, I mean the actual source of the information. Yes, I saw it right at the top of the article – but that’s not really a credible source on its own.

      2. What difference does that make to the 22% reference?  If something is 100% louder, it is twice as loud, no matter how you choose to graph it, no?

  8. When I was in school (Rice University, and you alums will know the bar I’m talking about), my favorite watering hole was unmarked, bookish, and had plenty of semi-private seating areas where nobody cared (much) how you and your date communicated.  It was *never* too loud.  Loud bars make me hate bars.  Loud clubs make me hate *all* clubs.  Now that I’m old, the only club/bars I frequent, very infrequently, are the ones where there are women walking around with very little clothing.  My favorite one of those achieved that status specifically because they keep the volume of the music down to a wow-we-can-actually-hear-each-other level.  That is NOT the normal criteria for choosing a strip club but it’s the one I use.

  9. Natural selection will sort things out in due course.

    Organisms fit to meet and mate in loud-bar environments will tend to pass on their loud-bar-tolerant genes.

    The rest of us will … find other ways to meet and mate.

  10. Figured that out a long time ago–it’s especially bad for me because I have single-sided hearing loss, and any kind of significant background noise makes it very difficult, if not nearly impossible, to focus in on a particular person’s voice. 

  11. I’m under the impression that, especially for younger people who have nothing to talk about, the whole point of taking your date to a movie, a bar, or a dance club is that it relieves you of the crippling social anxiety of having to talk with them.

  12. I expect it works for the patrons whose main purpose for going to a bar is to drink.  Me, I value conversation so choose to spend my time elsewhere.

  13. Turning up the volume does little to prevent preloading before hitting the bar (or pub) to get smashed at supermarket prices.

  14. They really don’t want me there.  I don’t drink alcohol (can’t stand the taste in any context: whisky, wine, or fruity concoction with six umbrellas in it, they all taste like dragster fuel to me), and my hearing is just shot enough where I really have trouble carrying on conversations in noisy environments.  I just went to a company party at the Edison in downtown L.A.  Normally I skip those things since it’s a drag finding a babysitter and my wife barely knows most of the people with whom I work, but she really wanted to go since she’d heard great things about the Edison.  And it was a cool venue, steampunk out the wazoo.  But the music volume kept creeping up, so even the free bottles of absinthe weren’t nearly enough to keep us around for long. Since the company was footing the bar bill, I expect the Edison saw no downside to encouraging everyone to drink-up-me-hearties-yo-ho at Jack Warner’s expense.  But man was it irritating trying to carry on a conversation.

  15. I’ve always been able to find a quiet bar.  There is obviously a market for them. 
    You should’t expect for the most happening spot in town to be to your liking unless you have bad taste. 
    Nightclubs are places for dancing and other mating rituals.  Alcohol, dim lighting and loud music uninhibit.  Blame singles.

  16. Correlation/causation anyone? Who goes to loud bars = younger folk who drink more. Quieter bars = older and professional crowds. Volume causing drinking? I’m not convinced.

  17. Anecdotal 2 cents:

    While there are horrible fratty/clubby bars that have the music on “blaring” as default, there are also bars that try to keep things low key and pleasant but end up turning up the music to match (cover up) the ever increasing volume and obnoxiousness of patrons who become louder and more inebriated as the night rolls on. I work a shift in such a place. And yes, much of these people are talking (yelling) much louder than necessary, not because of the music, but because they’re buzzed and have a kind of natural loudness and obnoxious demeanor that gets enhanced by drink. It’s very tough to avoid this and find (amateur free) quiet places, especially on the weekends, which is why I find myself going to the bar on Sundays or during the week.

  18. Well this can’t be the whole story, because I went to oodles of raves in the 90s and I can tell you I never touched a drop of alcohol. The theoretical explanation is incomplete.

  19. Ah the loud jukebox. nothing like someone kidnapping the whole bar with a marathon of kid rock and lynard skynard except for the girl who just broke up with her boyfriend and wants everybody to feel her pain. Always please to find that a jukebox is broken.

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