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Nightclub Confidential

Sound Consideration is a Must

August 16, 2012 By: Steve Lewis

As the summer ends the quaint old town of Montauk, NY is assessing the impact nightlife has had on it's... quaintness. The last town on the thin road that ends a few miles down from the famous Lighthouse embracing the Atlantic Ocean, Montauk has strived to not be the Hamptons - where for years the lure of the majestic sky and miles of pristine beaches has been threatened by seasonal visitors that make noise at all hours and party until dawn.

Once a serene place for artists and rich estates, (and of course the tried and true townies who make their living off them) the Hamptons has become a destination for the party crowd. While many of the locals complain about the liter and disturbances, many thrive on the cash cows, their fast cars and life styles. Town officials are caught in the middle understanding the problems caused and weighing them against the tax revenues gained.

Montauk issued over 600 summonses to the slick, chic Surf Lodge last year.  Ownership subsequently split up and compromises made. The Surf Lodge is selling fewer bottles and is currently more at peace with its neighbors. This year the lavish and hip, Montauk Beach House, opened although with a late start they managed to put on weekly events including DJ Paul Oakenfold, Mark Ronson, Paul Sevigny and DJ Andy Rourke of The Smiths. Ruschmeyers, a little off the beaten path, is also bringing the big crowds and big bucks all the way east. Reports of blaring horns, loud sounds and all sorts of behavior normal to nightlife have been noted which has this quaint little town, the local papers and neighbors in an uproar.

With only a couple of cop cars to monitor this area it seems impossible for the permanent residents to get relief. The weather and Labor Day should end it all but the debate will rage through the winter and the possibility of new rules and regulations will be debated for round two, next year.

This encroachment of the new into the old, reminds me of new housing popping up in areas out west as cities like Los Angeles expand into rural communities. They build homes in suburbia and new residents complain when the coyotes or hawks pick off the family cat. Or they complain about the rattlesnakes posing a threat to their toddlers. These are valid complaints but the coyotes and rattlesnakes have been there for eons and the newbies must adjust to their needs in order to be good neighbors. Thus my case in point, more consideration needs to be made by operators.

Noise may never be reduced completely but steps can be made to lessen the impact on local neighbors. For instance berms can be built to help deaden sound. Covered with grass or flanked by a row of close growing trees or hedges can help with sound and sight lines as well. Tenting or enclosed areas where DJ's might be employed or small well placed speakers are often key solutions. The biggest aid will be advice from a sound engineer who ideally is brought in to pre-engineer low sound impact.

Walls can have sound dampening components; cavities can be filled with foam. It’s as simple as facing your speakers away from your friends next door. It’s always amazing that new developments often ignore this problem when it can be solved prior to any issues arising during the building process.

This especially should be the case for anyone developing clubs in Hotels that host DJs. Trying to put younger, hipper "maybe they won’t complain guests" in rooms near the action isn’t going to work as sound transmits to nearby floors. It’s ludicrous that sound isn’t even talked about or taken seriously during development of venues built in urban areas, where community consideration could mean the difference between thriving or shuttering.

Operators need to spend more time thinking about how to lessen the impact of loud speakers and the chatter of their patrons. Many clubs were built in warehouse districts which have been or are being developed into residential areas. Developers can be persuaded sometimes even compelled by a court to install sound proof windows to prevent negative impact. The "I was here first" defense often falls short.

Entire club districts like the West Chelsea strip in Manhattan, once the home of more than a dozen venues, have been closed up shortly after rezoning to mixed use clashed club owners with real estate interests. Clubs can hang their ceilings on springs, sound proof walls, use materials that absorb sound and limit their sound systems. But again a good sound engineer who understands the need of the neighbor and the dangers of non-compliance is the first line of defense.


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