How a flashy light show can backfire


A few months ago, I began noticing a bright light coming from one of the buildings to the west of my apartment. After further observation, I realized that it was some sort of light show, not unlike what you’d find inside a dance club, that goes along with the rooftop bar in a nearby hotel. Luckily, I’m not close enough to the source for it to be all that annoying, but I can’t speak for the thousands of people who live only a block or so away.

What’s the light show like? Picture a bright light source that alternates between pink, green, blue and other hues. Along with the changing colors, it also blinks and pulsates. Oh, and this is all happening at night, when the rest of the city is increasingly dark due to energy conservation efforts in the commercial buildings, so the light stands out even more.

My guess is that anyone living within two blocks of the rooftop bar, and who has a clear line of sight to that rooftop, will be seriously pissed off by the jarring lights outside their windows. And that underscores the bigger problem here. Aside from being a bad neighbor and contributing to visual pollution, the bar operators are going to annoy many of the people who live close by. At least some of those people are potential customers for the bar itself. But I highly doubt they’re going to frequent the establishment if that same place is responsible for turning their living room into the visual equivalent of a cheap motel room located next to a neon “Vacancy” sign.

Avoiding this type of situation is quite easy. When designing a light show, audio system, or any other element that has the potential to annoy neighboring buildings, make sure to budget for suitable insulation. That might mean polarizing filters on the sides and roof of a bar area to keep the light from traveling too far, or soundproofing materials to limit music levels. And if you’ve already built a venue without taking these steps, at least have the courtesy to turn down the lights and volume to a reasonable level. Otherwise, you may end up scaring away a big chunk of the local population, meaning that you’ll miss out on the word of mouth and revenue that they could bring to your business.