Cottage Q&A: Loud music and the lake

An outdoor shot of a microphone with lights and trees in the background By URAIWONS/Shutterstock

Every Saturday night, the water-access restaurant across the river blasts loud music, either the radio or a mediocre singer–guitar player. When I politely spoke to the owner, he said he understood that he could play the music until 11 p.m. Do restaurants have special noise privileges?—Beverley Tyndall, via email

Mostly, no. “There is no specific legislation in terms of licensed premises in Canada,” says David Martin, an associate professor at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management in Toronto. “Bars and restaurants must comply with local bylaws on noise, which in most communities is 11 p.m.” Check your municipality’s bylaws (usually these are posted online). “If the noise is going beyond that, a person would have every right to call the bylaw officer,” says Martin.

How do we silence our loud lake neighbours?

Let’s assume that it won’t come to this. “It sounds like there’s an opportunity for compromise here,” says Michael van Grondelle, the head of the Restaurant and Hotel Management program with Saskatchewan Polytechnic in Saskatoon. “I always believe that as a hospitality business, we need to be a good neighbour, because everybody is a potential customer. We need to be able to work with people to ensure that we are all happy.”

Maybe the restaurant could turn the music down at 9 or 10 p.m. Expecting no music at all is probably unrealistic. You may not love spending your Saturday evenings listening to Top 40 or ’90s slow jams or somebody’s acoustic guitar cover of “Starboy,” but other people do. Other people might actually be going to the restaurant to hear this.

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The restaurant owner will probably be more inclined to change if you can show evidence that other lake neighbours—who are also potential customers—are bothered by the music too. “One complaint doesn’t always mean a lot,” says van Grondelle. “If you had 20 or 30 cabin owners with the same complaint, he might feel differently.”

Keep things casual, not confrontational. Martin suggests a “kindly worded letter” with a signed petition to get the ball rolling on a conversation.

This article was originally published in the Early Summer 2017 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

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