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Eh? Proposed law would require bars with loud music to provide ear plugs

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Patrons who go out to bars, nightclubs and restaurants to take in live music probably expect it to be loud. But how loud is too loud?

The Business Journal reports that some venues in Minneapolis would be required to carry ear plugs under an ordinance amendment proposed by City Council Member Jacob Frey, who represents parts of downtown, Northeast and some of the area around the university, parts of the city that include a number of clubs that feature live music. The measure would cover only Class A and Class B on-sale liquor, wine and beer license holders, which would rule out smaller neighborhood restaurants.

The bars would be required to offer ear plugs with a "noise reduction rating" of at least 30 decibels. They would be provided at no charge to patrons. Frey said the non-profit group Locally Grown Globally Connected has agreed to provide the ear plugs free of charge to the musical venues. .

"We have access to free supplies that will at least give people the option of saving their hearing decades down the road," said Frey, who represents Downtown and Northeast. "I see no reason not to do this."

The measure will have a public hearing on April 1.

The Huffington Post reports that a loud music ordinance has been controversial in New Orleans, where live music is part of the city's culture. Introduced in December, it is now being revised after critics complained that it threatened the city's rich musical legacy and imperiled the livelihood of both musicians and the venues that host them. The New York Times reported that an acoustics expert hired by the City Council is busily taking decibel measurements along Bourbon Street as part of an effort to better manage the volume in places devoted to Dixieland and other music.

Last year, Bob Boilen, a music reviewer for National Public Radio wrote that he uses ear plugs at concerts and music shows more often, but confessed that "...I don't like what they do to the experience. In fact, earplugs deaden the full range of sonics that clubs and bands would like their fans to hear, that very sensation they're after with loud music." Boilen's unscientific survey of NPR listeners found that 71 percent said most of the live music shows they see are too loud. But people are split on wearing earplugs: 52 percent say they do it; 45 percent of those say they hate it but do it anyway, and 26 percent say they hate earplugs and won't wear them.

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