A New Westin is Doing a Very Bad Thing to its Local Community

A trend in upscale hotels is to embrace the local community, and make this a selling point to guests — to participate in farmers markets, bring in local artists, and become the ‘passport to experience’ a location ‘indigenously’.

The Westin Austin Downtown is a new build hotel in the heart of Austin’s music scene that opened last year. But instead of celebrating the music, they’re suing over the noise.

Being in the middle of the music is the whole point and the hotel’s design embraced this. The lobby is inspired by a Gibson guitar from the artwork behind the check-in desk to the strings hanging from the ceiling.

These are guitar picks over the bed.

Here’s a guitar picture in the bathroom.

Being right on sixth street means you’re going to hear music that plays into the night. Because that’s where the clubs are which are permitted to play outdoor amplified music until 2 a.m. That’s why I wrote,

You’re in the middle of downtown Austin, on 6th street no less, the epicenter of bars and music venues so there’s going to be noise. The location is mostly a plus for the hotel, but the drawback is the same as it’s core selling proposition.

…if you’re sensitive to noise, and want the quietest room possible, definitely request something on the 5th street side.

The Westin, though, is apparently suing a neighboring music venue and seeking an injunction against them so that they can’t make noise late at night.

The Nook Amphitheater next door says they worked with the hotel during the construction phase and shared sound testing with them. They test their sound levels every 30 minutes. They’re using the same equipment they were using before the hotel was built. And they say they’re within the area’s noise ordinance.

The City of Austin found that the hotel was constructed with “nearly no low frequency sound mitigating materials built into the building.”

While the Westin’s lawsuit says they’ve spent an additional $1 million on sound mitigation since opening,

The documents reveal that on Sept. 12, the city performed a second sound analysis on the Westin’s 10th floor, which has been retrofitted with additional soundproofing. The data confirms that higher-pitched frequencies were dampened slightly, but there was almost no difference in the bass volume.

“This is probably due to the wrong material being used to try to mitigate low frequencies,” concludes the report, adding that the Westin achieved the lowest environmental-design rating and neglected to conduct a pre-build acoustical analysis.

Other hotels near loud venues triple-paned glass to keep out sound. The Westin’s General Manager told me last year that they opened with only single pane glass, and retrofitted to double pane initially on the Sixth Street side of the building in their first few months.

In any case if music venues aren’t breaking the law, and were in place before the hotel was there — and indeed the hotel’s whole point was to market themselves as right in the heart of the music scene — it seems truly unreasonable to sue an adjacent venue.

Of course the Nook Amphitheater must spend to defend the suit, and lawsuits frequently aren’t about who would prevail on the merits of the law but on whom can impose high enough costs on the other party to either force them to change behavior or to pay a tax lower than the expected cost of litigation.

This strategy, however, may backfire on the Westin because they’re getting absolutely hammered by the community on Yelp.

(HT: Marie)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Eventually the artists can’t afford Austin so this will only speed up the process of Make Austin Generic Again! #MAGA

  2. Its obvious to me that noise is a big complaint with most guests worldwide
    When you stay at a well designed hotel like the Sheraton at Amsterdam airport you don’t hear much or any noise.They knew being on top of an airport you will need an exceptionally sound proof interior.
    They likely double or triple pane
    The fact that the Westin Austin built the hotel originally with insufficient sound proofing is there own fault
    I stopped staying at the Westin in Sydney a few years back after my headband shook from a nearby nightclub in Martin Place up till 4 AM in the morning and there is/was no reasonable solution
    Hotels opening up in a major city that don’t provide a reasonable budget to adequately protect their investment and guest satisfaction has no empathy from me and I hope the court throws their lawsuit out the window
    Starwood at this point in the game should never allow a hotel inferior sound proofing to open but of course they do as long as they get their cut off the profits they go blind

  3. @Dwonderment – I was about to make a comment about Westin Sydney but you beat me to it! We were there for 10 straight nights in April and I was amazed at the noise on certain nights from that nightclub. Park Hyatt Sydney has a noise issue from an adjacent venue along the Quay, but they knock off before 11 pm.

  4. @ Basil
    Its so sad because the Westin Sydney was one of my favorite properties in the world
    and their new beds at the Sydney property are anything but heavenly
    Oh well its a Marriott anyway going forward 🙁

  5. I stayed there once on the 6th street side. It sounded like the music was literally in or room. It was a gorgeous hotel but I don’t think I would stay there again. There’s just too many other options

  6. We at The Westin Austin Downtown understand that this has become a very emotional issue, but please know this isn’t a case of a large corporation coming in and trying to silence an independent venue in the city. The people who work in the hotel are Austinites who live, work and hang out in Austin, and we all love the city’s music. The hotel has 47 music venue neighbors that we have great friendships with and our guests visit. This issue is about one complaint with one neighbor, and we’re simply asking that neighbor to turn down their bass – just the bass — in the early hours of the morning. Right now the bass is at a decibel level that rattles the windows and reverberates so hard you can feel the thumps, even after we retrofitted the building in 2015. Measurements we have taken by a third-party indicate the bass is often at a level well above the city ordinance. This establishment has also acknowledged to us they realize their bass is a problem, and we’ve been talking for more than a year about ways to fix it.

    The establishment has proposed a solution that we have accepted and are waiting for them to finalize. The venue has proposed a specific sound system they believe will reduce the bass level and we agreed to pay for it, but have asked that, if for some reason the new system doesn’t work, the club will agree to turn the bass down – just the bass.

    We have not asked for, nor are we trying to, shut down the club or change anything about the city’s live music culture. We have always supported live music and our community and always will. That’s why our 47 neighborhood friends welcome us at their establishments, and we welcome them, and everyone, at ours.

  7. You came at them with a million dollar lawsuit. If you were simply trying to “work with them” as you claim then you would have left the lawyers out of it. If you had a solution that you thought would work, why the lawsuit?? Its a bullying tactic which is what people are taking issue with. Youre a huge international company that is lawyering up against a small local business, in particular one that is responsible for the music scene you came in trying to capitalize on. By all acconts they have done their diligence. I actually ran into a couple of their managers at the music office just a few more the ago as they were renewing their live music permit which, guess what, was granted. As a manager of a music venue, I can tell you that the city takes noise complaints very seriously. If they weren’t in compliance, they wouldn’t have a permit and would be receiving unsustainable fines regularly. Conversely, by several accounts, the Westin did not due their due diligence and went cheap on their noise dampening materials. An unfortunate and costly mistake to be sure, but not one that the Nook is responsible for. The smart move would have been to own it from the get go and correct your mistake. You decided to go the corporate bully route instead and are reaping the PR nightmare you deserve.

  8. @The Westin Austin Downtown

    Do you really think it’s appropriate to unilaterally volunteer all your employees as examples of how you support the community? Your employees are there to make a living. It’s a truism to point out that they’re people who live there, and using them to prove a point about how your connected with the local community is just absurd.

  9. we were on Duval St in Key West at a hotel on the second floor. 4am music goes off and then they clean up. The place was dead since it was a Tuesday night. Thump Thump Thump that is all you hear from 10pm to 4 am.

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