Kitchen smells, noise, hectic hustle and bustle – the neighborhood can feel disturbed by a restaurant business. One thing that could help: talk to each other.
Whether it's a restaurant, café or bistro: those who live above or next to such a location often feel disturbed by the smell and noise. Do you have to accept that?
That's what the laws say
“Whether kitchen smells are actually a disruptive factor for the environment is ultimately a subjective assessment,” says Jürgen Benad, lawyer and managing director at the German Hotel and Restaurant Association (Dehoga-Bundesverband) in Berlin. Smells are sensations and cannot be assessed objectively – after all, smell cannot be measured. However, it always depends on the intensity of the impairment. In other words: The smell must be clearly – and not just slightly – perceptible. Another point: The odor nuisance occurs over a longer period of time – and not just occasionally.
Regardless of their relative frequency, according to case law, smells that trigger disgust or nausea should always be avoided. However, anyone who claims that smells from grilling, deep-frying and seasoning make him or her feel disgusted or nauseous will hardly be able to prevail.
This is to be done if there is a nuisance to the smell
If you feel disturbed by smells, the first thing you should do is talk to the restaurant and ask for understanding,” says Christian Feierabend, a specialist lawyer in international business law in Berlin. This is always better as a first-choice method than filing a complaint of administrative offenses from the outset to harden the fronts or start an expensive legal dispute. After all, the restaurateur also has an interest in being a good neighbor.
Sometimes simple solutions are enough to resolve the conflict. For example, an open or tilted window in the kitchen of the restaurant can cause the smells to escape to the outside. If this window remains closed, the odors can be removed via the ventilation system in the kitchen, which is often required by law.
The public order office can check the implementation of regulations
There are further regulations for catering kitchens: “For example, an exhaust air system with a filter device is often mandatory if increased grease vapor is produced, for example by deep fryers or grills,” explains Feierabend. There must also be a grease separator that needs to be emptied regularly. But according to Feierabend, one thing must still be clear: “Smells emanating from the catering kitchen often cannot be completely avoided.”
If residents now feel significantly affected by – from their point of view – strong smells and the conversation with the catering establishment was not productive, they can next contact their local authority’s public order office.
“The authority can now be asked to check whether the kitchen in the restaurant is being operated in accordance with legal regulations,” explains Benad. If it turns out that this is not the case, the public order office can ask the company to change this.
Until what time is outdoor dining permitted?
In addition to smells from the kitchen, noise can also really strain the nerves of neighbors – for example from guests on the outside terrace in the form of loud conversations, laughter and shouting. Here, too, it is important to first talk to the catering establishment, make them aware of your own needs and ask for consideration. “One solution could be that guests are allowed to use the outdoor terrace of a restaurant until 10 p.m. and are then invited inside,” says Benad.
The time until which outdoor dining is permitted is regulated differently from state to state and sometimes also at the local level. There may also be exceptions for certain times, such as days when customs are maintained.
Whether existing or incoming makes no difference
In general, when it comes to noise, restaurants must adhere to the regulations of the Restaurant Act and the Federal Immission Control Act. This results in operator obligations. These include, for example, the requirement to adhere to certain noise guidelines.
If residents cannot reach a solution with the restaurant business, they can also contact the public order office. “In an acute case of particularly severe noise pollution or in the event of recurring conflicts, residents could also contact the police,” says Benad.