Apartment Above Cafe, Would Noise be a Concern?

Currently looking to buy an apartment and have found one that fits our requirements, but it sits directly on top of what is currently an empty space which will soon be developed into a cafe.

With noise being our concern, the real estate agent reassures me that the floor is extra thick at 260mm (vs. a 200mm concrete slab elsewhere in the building) and that there are double glazed windows in the apartment. To anyone with experience, should I still have concerns about the soundproofing?

EDIT: Thanks for the responses everyone. I'm getting a resounding probably avoid – will keep looking!


  • +20 votes

    I’d be more worried about the smells associated with the cafe than the noise.

    Not only will the food smell good at most times, which will make you hungry, but if they fry anything then the fried smell will linger and smell disgusting.

    Source: a friend of mine lives three floors above a burger place and whenever her windows are open, her house stinks of that fried smell, even when it’s closed. Yes, a burger place fries more than a cafe, but cars will still probably have a deep fryer.

    • +4 votes

      This. I'd be far more concerned about the smell. You don't know what cafe operator might lease downstairs. Could end up being a takeaway or fast food place.

      I once rented a place 2 houses down from a popular fast food place and the smell was terrible in the back courtyard. Admittedly I never noticed the smell inside the house - but an apartment directly above could be an entirely different situation.

    • +1 vote

      smell, and extra bugs because of food storage


  • +7 votes

    Agreed with above. Lived above a shop and it wasn't the noise it was the smells.

  • +14 votes

    Dont forget smokers out the front of the cafe… particularly if they have tables out the front.


      Very good point but in Vic if they allow food outside, it is illegal to smoke in the same area unless separated by a wall or specific distance.


        What's the specific distance?


          I didn’t know which is why i kept it vague, but I just googled and it’s 4 metres.

          ”Smoking will also be banned in an outdoor drinking area if any part of that area is within four metres of an outdoor dining area, unless separated by a wall of at least 2.1 metres high.”

          Source: https://www.vcglr.vic.gov.au/newsmokinglaws


            @jjjaar: What I meant is the distance you have to be from an outdoor dining area to be allowed to smoke. It may be the case you can jump up from your seat and start smoking 1 metre away, but I can't find any info on it.


              @tranter: A friend of mine who works in a cafe said both the business and smoker could be fined if they are smoking within the 4 metres of their outdoor seating, so he’s been advised to tell people to move well away. If they’re just a passerby on a footpath, it would probably just be the smoker getting fined.

              That being said, I’ve never looked this up so not sure if that’s bad just the business being cautious or if it’s the law.


          Oh completely, the cafe chooses if the area is smoking or eating. That’s why I wrote “if they allow food outside”, as they have the choice.

          However, I noticed many cafes in the cbd choose smoking but within 6 months had changed their tune.

  • +2 votes

    don't know for VIC but for NSW if you're concerned about the cafe to be, keep an eye out for DAs from Councils. If it wants to be licensed it will likely require an acoustic report, and you will be the nearest residential receiver. If the DA is not approved yet you can put in your concern (be it noise/odour/loitering customers) - and they might end up with more conditions on their consents.

  • +3 votes

    Over a cafe? Wouldn't be an issue - unless you work nights and need to sleep during the daytime. Haven't heard of cafes operating late at night.


    I think smoking outside in a dining area or even close to the entrance is illegal in NSW. As mentioned I would look into the DA to find some more information about what is being developed. I don't think a cafe would smell anywhere near as much as a burger place. I don't recall noticing the smell of a cafe aside from ground coffee.

  • +11 votes

    Don't forget additional cars on the street trying to get parking etc

    • +7 votes

      Yup, I live next door to a popular cafe and street parking is a nightmare (I don't need to do it, but if I have visitors it's annoying). Also people will park illegally all the time since parking is bad.

      I've had the following happen:
      - Someone park their car on our front lawn for 45 minutes. Not talking just a wheel up the curb, but the whole car on the grass up inside our fence line.
      - People parked across our driveway waiting for the passenger to go in and grab the coffees. They are still in the car, but I have to blast my horn at them so they will move when I am behind waiting to get into the driveway.
      - People park their car so far from the curb that two cars can no longer pass each other even though the road is plenty wide enough if everyone parks correctly

      This isn't specific to cafe obviously, as anyone who lives near a school can probably attest, but expect this to happen every Saturday and Sunday from now on. Although I still don't mind living near it because the cafe is so good and the staff are always really nice, but it's not their fault their customers are jerks.

  • +9 votes

    yeah lived above a café and they used our bins, and left food scraps around and got rats…plus you couldn't park anywhere coz there were cars everywhere from the people coming every weekend….annoying people blocking footpaths. IT SUCKED I LEFT!

  • +2 votes

    If you’re leasing the apartment, maybe yes. If you’re gonna live there, this is definitely NOT your 1st choice.

    You may even get the smell from the smoke travelling from their exhaust pipe/range hood into yours, depending on how connected these things are un your building. Smoke/hot air rises. Or wait until you get a fire evacuation from a false alarm…

  • +2 votes

    I would get a boombox going in the soon to be cafe, crank it up high, then see how much noise is getting to the apartment.

    I once lived in a first floor apartment next door to a cafe. No shared walls. I could never figure out why but that apartment was warmer than the ambient temperature 24/7. It once was 27' minimum 24/7 for 15 days straight in summer, when the overnight temps outside dropped to 22-23.

  • +4 votes

    I used to work in an office above a cafe, and at least once a month the whole building would need to be evacuated due to a fire alarm being triggered by the cafe kitchen.

    Used to love the regular breaks from work, but I imagine if it was your home it would be most frustrating.

  • +1 vote

    you want to have 2nd job on the weekend at cafe
    too lazy to walk to pickup take away order

  • +6 votes


  • +2 votes

    You are buying. Therefore long term.
    I would be more concerned about what may open once the cafe chooses to leave. A bar? McDonald's?


    It looks like the overall consensus is…. don't do it!

  • +7 votes

    The RE is going to say anything to make the sale

    • +4 votes


      Place we were going to purchase i asked the real estate if the asbestos had been removed. she was so quick and happy to say yes all removed. when we sent our building inspector round he said the place was full of asbestos.


    Directly on top I would be concerned, further up maybe not so much. We just got back from Spain and the place we rented in Madrid was three stories up from a bar - we heard people coming and going a few times but hardly anything from the bar itself. A lot of inner city apartment building are putting commercial premises in their ground floor. As indicated in other places I would be looking for a small number of flats in an older style apartment building, at the moment; given the issues we are seeing with new apartments.

  • +4 votes

    real estate agents are as trustworthy as used car salespeople

  • +9 votes

    I used to live 5 stories above a cafe that would stay open late on weekends. Here's my experience.

    Cockroaches: Any establishment that serves food, attracts alot of pests, especially cockroaches. They would spray the public spaces in the apartment but these little suckers would run up the side of the building up to peoples units.

    Smoking: As other people have mentioned here, smoke will potentially drift up to your unit, so good luck keeping your windows open.

    Noise Pollution: This cafe in particular liked to hire a guitarist/singer to play out the front of it, even with our double glazed windows, it sometimes made reading a book or watching TV difficult. There would also occasionally be deliveries early in the morning that would wake up my girlfriend.

    Parking: Also mentioned above, depending on your building and the cafe's popularity, parking can be a nightmare, especially for guests.

    I will say this though, if it's a good cafe you have a convenient spot just downstairs for you to go down to on Sunday mornings.

    Good Luck mate

  • +13 votes

    I'm an acoustical consultant and prepare DAs for such establishments regularly.

    Cafe's can be quite noisy, particularly if they're all concrete, glass and plasterboard. Extraction fans and refrigeration and a/c condensers can also be noisy if not acoustically designed, so look for where those external mech plant and any discharges are located.

    They will have to provide an assessment that demonstrates all regulations are achieved (not sure which state you're in). They could easily install an suitable ceiling to control noise transmission via the slab/ceiling but noise from the venue can also easily transfer via the building structure (especially if they mount speakers directly to the walls or slab) and also out the front.

    I can assure you that the agent is speaking without knowledge. The difference between a 200mm slab and a 260mm in terms of sound insulation is not that substantial. Do you plan to open the windows or have a front balcony that you would spend time on? If so, then double-glazing won't help. Any future uses would also be required to submit a DA but it is not uncommon for rogues to operate outside the conditions of consent.

    I don't think its a deal breaker but do seek out the DA assessment to fully understand the operating hours and noise sources for the cafe. Of course, the report will conclude that it complies (ie won't be a noise problem) but at least you'll be going in with your eyes open. You could even pay an acoustical consultant to peer review the report and explain the acoustic risks. Pick a member firm of the AAAC though.


      The extraction fans and condensers are terrible - far worse than other noise as they are continuous, are outside are make it very hard to sleep. Most places have to stop them at a certain time, but half the time staff don't give a stuff and keep them running all night.

  • +1 vote

    All these negatives will affect resale value too. I wouldn't do it.


    Smells - especially note where the grease trap is.
    Noise - double glazing is great if you keep the windows shut all the time.
    Cafe now… restaurant later?

    I just wouldn't

    • +1 vote

      yes grease trap.
      I used to work in a building with IGA on the ground floor and they are selling hot food.
      Every couple of months, they have issues with grease trap and the whole building smells like sewer.

  • +1 vote

    Gosh, I'd consider it a huge bonus that there's a cafe downstairs. Strolling down the stairs to my breakfast seems ideal. To each their own.

  • +5 votes

    Thanks for the responses everyone. I'm getting a resounding probably avoid – will keep looking!

  • +1 vote

    I knew a guy who had an apartment above a yakitori restaurant here in Japan. He couldnt hang his clothes outside, or they'd get a oily resin from the meat on it. really nice apartment but he was confined inside the whole time of his tenure.


    I must be the only one who enjoys living on top of a restaurant. Nice smells every night & day, it's been great. But I'm several floors above it.


    Lucky if you can find a business partner. You open yours own cafe shop. 10 seconds walking to work. Best ever. Save petrol and time

  • +1 vote

    Also consider the zoning and the potential for the business to change use, a big difference between a daytime cafe, a cafe that closes at say 8pm and one that has a bar with the potential to go very late say 2am….. with sporting or other celebrations.


    As mentioned again and again: SMELL is the big issue.

    Coffee, bacon and eggs is delicious early in the morning. Not so at night.
    And repulsive after months and months.

    And what about in a situation: vegetarian vs rotisserie "coffee" shop.
    Also coffee today, meat pies tomorrow. Chinese the next. Then Indian. Then Jamaican. Might be delicious … to eat not to have it in your furniture, blinds, carpet, cloths?.

    The fact the Real Estate agent waives the fantasy of a thick concrete floor is a BIG worry.
    Noise (and smell!!!!!) will come through windows and doors and openings. Not a slab of material.


    Low ball them due to the concerns raised by others here, then rent it out.

  • +2 votes

    Where there are food, there will be rubbish bins nearby. You'll get both kinds of smell.

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