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Strawberry Fields at BB King's Blues Club - A Review And A Warning

June 8, 2006

Strawberry Fields at BB King's Blues Club - A Review And A Warning

By Richard Kuper

The Op Ed Page

On Monday night we went to hear the group Strawberry Fields at BB King's Blues Club in NYC. As you may have already guessed, they are a Beatles sound-alike band, made up of folks who were in the Broadway production of Beatlemania. So, of course, we expected a terrific show.

Instead, what we got was earsplittingly loud and distorted noise. If one stuck their fingers in their ears, one might then determine that the group really wasn't all that bad, if only they would lower the volume.

After a complaint, the manager, Eric Gunther, claimed he lowered it. When pressed, he stated that the volume was originally at 95 db, and he lowered it to 90. That was still way too loud. His solution was to get us some ear plugs. We tried them, but the show continued to be totally un-enjoyable. He refused to refund our money. We finally left.

As we were leaving, the volume cranked up even louder. I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Gunther pushed it to over 100 db, as he truly did not seem to care about the damage he was causing to the patrons and to the workers as well.

I did some research. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology (AAO):

"The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, in its Hearing Conservation Amendment of 1983, requires hearing conservation programs in noisy work places. This includes a yearly hearing test for the approximately five million workers exposed to an average of 85 dB or more of noise during an 8-hour work day."

Notice that it said "exposed to" and "85 db or more." None of the staff were wearing ear plugs or other protective devices, so I hope that BB King's is following the law and providing free annual hearing tests to it's employees. It is apparently also required to provide free ear plugs to it's employees. I wonder if they know that.

The following is also from the AAO:

"What Are The Laws For On-The-Job Exposure?

* Habitual exposure to noise above 85 dB will cause a gradual hearing loss in a significant number of individuals, and louder noises will accelerate this damage.

* For unprotected ears, the allowed exposure time decreases by one-half for each 5 dB increase in the average noise level. For instance, exposure is limited to 8 hours at 90 dB, 4 hours at 95 dB, and 2 hours at 100 dB.

* The highest permissible noise exposure for the unprotected ear is 115 dB for 15 minutes/day. Any noise above 140 dB is not permitted."

Also according to the AAO, the typical rock concert (this was not supposed to be one of those) is at least 115 db, so anyone attending one for more than 15 minutes without extreme hearing protection is asking for trouble.

The club gets around the NYC Ordinance of the sound not exceeding 45 db because it is below ground and not causing a disturbance to an apartment or on the street.

I would encourage anyone considering going to BB King's to not go there until they lower the music. If you must go (the server was very nice and the chicken wings with bbq sauce was good, but the prices are on the high side for the food), make them give you high-quality ear plugs before the show begins, and make sure that you follow instructions on how to insert them in your ears or you won't be getting the appropriate protection.