How stupid is it to consider an apartment above a pizza shop
June 10, 2012 9:43 PM   Subscribe

Tomorrow I'm looking at an apartment that it turns out is located above a pizza shop. Given that this is usually a bad idea, how - if at all - can I try to predict whether it might be an exception to that rule?

I've heard horror stories about living above food-prep businesses; I also assume that there are exceptions, and that it's at least possible to happily live above a restaurant.

(For what it's worth, I'm looking at this one almost on a whim; it just happens to be exactly the right size and trim level, and the price looks like a good deal without being suspiciously too-good-to-be-true cheap. I'm not desperate for a place to live and if I have any doubts that it'll be fine, I'll simply move on.)

Smell: I'll be going on a very hot day, around dinnertime. If I don't smell anything, can I take that as any kind of confidence that the same will be true at other times of the day?

Noise: Obviously neighbor-noise is always a crapshoot in any situation. In this case it's a bi-level split unit, with the bedrooms upstairs. Is it likely that a whole floor will provide enough sound-insulation to keep me from being bothered by closing-time and opening-time clatter? (They're open from noon to midnight, which is my usual bedtime; I assume there will be activity well before and after that time, though.)

Basically, is living above a pizza shop the kind of thing that's almost guaranteed to be a problem, or can I sanity-check the actual apartment and sign a lease with a reasonable degree of confidence that it'll be no worse than the inevitable risks of living with unpredictable neighbors in a dense city?
posted by Tomorrowful to Home & Garden (28 answers total)
I can't speak for this building's constructions or your personal tolerance level for sounds/smells/crowds, but I'd be worried about roaches and similar. Make sure the construction doesn't basically include a pipeline from their refuse to your apartment.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 9:48 PM on June 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

I can't speak for this building's constructions or your personal tolerance level for sounds/smells/crowds, but I'd be worried about roaches and similar. Make sure the construction doesn't basically include a pipeline from their refuse to your apartment.

Oh, right! Vermin! there a way I can see if that's the case in advance?
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:49 PM on June 10, 2012

You didn't mention drunk-customer noise or delivery-vehicle noise, which may be more relevant to you at 3AM than at dinner time.
posted by mhoye at 9:50 PM on June 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

is there a way I can see if that's the case in advance?

CL forums for your city or or whatever site like that is relevant (maybe Yelp?), and hope that there's a thread for the building. Talk to previous/current tennnts or nearby neighbors if possible.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 9:57 PM on June 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

(Oh, just to clarify - I'm not trying to thread-mod, I promise - this is the 2nd and 3rd stories of a Philly row home; the business occupies the first. There's no "building" in the "apartment complex" sense.)
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:59 PM on June 10, 2012

I had a friend who lived above a cafe, and it turned out after a few months that the building leases were set up so that electricity, water, and other utilities just got split evenly among the tenants. So she basically ended up subsidising the shop's industrial-level usage of utilities. Make sure that is not going to happen to you!
posted by lollusc at 10:02 PM on June 10, 2012 [7 favorites]

Oh, right! Vermin! there a way I can see if that's the case in advance?

Here's a really effective one, for roaches. Bring a can of Raid with you when you see the place. Then blast it into various cracks and crevices around the apartment. I would recommend - behind the fridge, behind the stove, under the baseboards.

See what, if anything comes swarming out. Caution: if this works, it might give you nightmares.
posted by cairdeas at 10:05 PM on June 10, 2012 [9 favorites]

I cannot speak for the noise or other issues specific to this apartment, but I had a good friend that lived above a restaurant in Chicago. She signed at least one renewal that I know of. She also became very friendly with the staff downstairs and rarely, if ever, paid full price for her food and never paid for the drinks she had waiting for pickup. It was a big benefit of the apartment. They also accepted packages for her when she could not be home for delivery and cleaned up in front of her doorway every day (which was next to their front window). While there were times when it smelled like ethnic food, it never seemed an issue while I was there. Summer in Chicago is HOT and HUMID. I think the biggest issue was the noise of the garbage trucks emptying the dumpster in back.

I think the situation is going to be very specific to the building, neighborhood and landlord.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:28 PM on June 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

How late are they open? If its a popular 3am post-bar pizza joint that is totally different than a family joint that closes at 9pm
posted by fshgrl at 11:40 PM on June 10, 2012

Wait, you said midnight. That's good! Maybe do a driveby at closing and check out the crowd.
posted by fshgrl at 11:41 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

JohnnyGunn has it - so much will depend on the individual situation.

I live above a restaurant (in an old building from 1890) and will tell you a bit about my experience.

The Good:
+ The staff and I are friendly, I sometimes make them birthday cakes and they occasionally buy me drinks and food.
+ I love to people watch and this is a great place to do it.
+ They actually pay for all of *our* water - check your lease for specifics to make sure you don't end up responsible for their share (as lollusc cautions!)
+ They have pest control come once a week so we actually have less insects than at my old place.
+ I can always borrow a cup of sugar or a cheese grater if I need one!
+ Delicious takeout (its a French restaurant)
++ My rent is cheaper than it would be if there weren't a restaurant below (I have the nicest apartment of all my friends because of this!)
++ I met my boyfriend through the bartender who is marrying boyfriend's sister next month!

The Bad:
- On a hot week on the last day before garbage pickup, it can stink. We have a shared dumpster right by my stairs up to my front door, and it gets picked up twice a week.
- The glass recycling at 6:30 am is VERY LOUD once a week. I can sleep through it but boyfriend and guests mention that it will wake them up.
- They open at 8am and close at midnight, so there aren't many hours that I'm home that there isn't someone there. (But, that's almost a neutral for me since I don't mind).
- My first roommates moved out a month after they opened - they couldn't take the noise. (was a different and less popular restaurant before with a lot less noise)
- Often they are doing repairs starting at 7 or 8am on a weekend, before they open.
- Often they forget to tell us about those repairs, leading to me storming into the place in my bathrobe and yelling at some hapless foreman because no one from the actual restaurant is there yet.
- The guests and employees are often smoking under my open windows in the summer - ugh.
- I once dated a server who worked there and it was awkward when we broke up for the first few months. (YMMV if you just.. don't do that!)
- When i come home on a friday or saturday evening, I have to park a few blocks away (THE HORROR! {I realize PDX is lots different than PHI})

-/+ I spent my first summer out of college at the bar all the time.. spent a lot of money but had a good time, too!

Overall, I have enjoyed my experience living above a restaurant and plan to continue doing so for the foreseeable future. It helps that my landlord (a cooky character himself!, oh, the stories!) tends to side more with the residential tenants than the restaurant, so if there's ever a situation I can bring it to his attention and he gets to be the bad guy. But generally I try to be reasonable and friendly and understanding that I am choosing to live above a restaurant (so, complaining about regular service noise, garbage, etc = no, complaining about jackhammers at 7am on a Sunday morning = yes).

To answer some of your specific questions:

In my old building, my floor (2nd floor) isn't enough to insulate the 3rd floor tenants from noise (also old building with por sound insulation) - they seem t have more complaints that we do (also have 2 kids and I think the husband is an insomniac, so that may factor in.)

Garbage smell, as I mentioned above, is variable depending on the day of the week and if there's been a fish special that week and how hot it's been. Expect some garbage smell, sometimes.

My advice would be to see if you can speak with 1) the other tenants in the building (if there are any, I'm on the 2nd floor and there's a 3rd above me) and 2) the restaurant owner/manager - I'd see how friendly they seem to be, how responsive, how well you'd like them as a person neighbor, and 3) the vacating tenants (again, if you can: if not, ask the leasing agent why they're moving).

Good luck!
posted by girlalex at 11:48 PM on June 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

Be sure to check out their food first to see if you like it or not.
posted by Evilspork at 1:44 AM on June 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Remember that roaches are not the only vermin you may have to deal with: rats may be the real issue, along with raccoons attracted to the restaurant garbage.
posted by Wylla at 2:03 AM on June 11, 2012

My wife lived above a restaurant in college and the building (a fairly large one) was crawling with mice in the walls and rats in the alleys. I don't think she's repeat the experience at any price.
posted by gerryblog at 4:04 AM on June 11, 2012

I live above a block of stores that contains two restaurants (one is a 200 sq. foot take-out place; the other one is a regular full size sit-down joint) and moving here (from a regular apartment complex) nearly doubled my apartment insurance rates. Do you already have renter's insurance? You might want to call them and get a quote.
posted by janepanic at 4:12 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I lived above a restaurant for a couple of years; my place faced the back, the resto the front, and I rarely thought about them. Noise and smells non-issues.

Once I found a small roach; I went off to the building manager, and a waitress had just spotted one, and the place was closed down and the exterminators they hired (next day, I think) even removed my groceries from the cupboards pre-spray and returned them afterwards instead of making me do it. Never saw anything else, and no rats (right downtown, too).

It was my all-time favourite apartment. Not always a bad idea. Peek around to see how clean the pizzeria is; if there are open smelly dumpsters that's not likely to change, but if not...

Sometimes I would watch somebody stumble from the bistro to the parking lot, take ten minutes to unlock his car, and then I'd call the police while watching the clumsy drunk attempt to start the car, but this was infrequent and filed under 'free entertainment'
posted by kmennie at 4:23 AM on June 11, 2012

I lived above a gross-out pizza restaurant in my city's designated party district; basically worse-case scenario (open till 3am, cash only, a few violent incidents a year). The owner of the pizzeria was my landlord. The pizza place itself was fine, the neighborhood was the problem.
posted by downing street memo at 4:25 AM on June 11, 2012

You said they close at midnight --- unfortunately that doesn't mean it'll suddenly be silent and they'll all be gone then, they'll still be cleaning, smoking that last cigarette before going home, hanging around waiting for their friends to finish up. Parking is definately a concern. Especially if this place includes a bar, how about loud music and drunken crowds? Maybe check for frequency of police calls.

The place might actually be wonderful, but besides smells and vermin, you have to consider where you'd end up parking your car, restaurant noise and, of course, your personal physical safety.
posted by easily confused at 4:28 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I lived above a Dominoes for 2.5 years, the owner was very conscientious about pest control. Occasionally we'd see a mouse, I think I saw a roach once the whole time. The only real issue I would say was the delivery truck which would come around once a week in the middle of the night and make a terrible racket.
posted by yellowbinder at 4:39 AM on June 11, 2012

I worked above a Middle Eastern restaurant for a couple of years. Most of the time there was no issue, but a couple of times a way they'd use roaster that basically filled our office with smoke. We complained to the building and the department of public health and eventually they improved their ventilation, but the smell of roasting still came through very strongly. It made it difficult to use the office for meetings or other professional activities. I certainly wouldn't have wanted to live there.

Note that my boss didn't notice this during the rental search process because there was no roasting going on during the times she visited the space.
posted by alms at 5:13 AM on June 11, 2012

What time does the garbage truck come, and how frequently? Do you have a car that might be blocked in, or do you have an alternate method of exit (if needed)?

Can you deal with the smell of burnt garlic all. the. time?
posted by Madamina at 5:51 AM on June 11, 2012

Pizza ovens generate a ton of heat. Make sure it isn't directly below your bedroom.
posted by gjc at 6:20 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

But is it Lorenzo and Sons? Because if it is Lorenzo and Sons that might trump any and all other considerations to live in proximity of those giant delicious pies... mmm...

This is a very legitimate comment.
posted by jph at 6:23 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's entirely possible that there really is a Nigerian prince out there somewhere who is increasingly frustrated that he can't get anyone to take the ridiculous amount of money he's offering someone if they'll just help him transfer his fortune out of the country. He keeps raising the amount he's offering and is just gobsmacked that no one seems to take him seriously.

But the odds are that the e-mail you got from someone claiming to be in that situation is not really that Nigerian prince but a scammer.

So yeah, there may be exceptions to the rule, but why would you take the chance? Surely there are other apartments out there that don't carry any of the increasingly long list of horrible risks other posters keep pointing out?
posted by Naberius at 6:50 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks, all - I think you've confirmed my initial gut instinct that the risk factor really is way too high for my tastes.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:11 AM on June 11, 2012

I lived above a pizza place for a year and a half (Sy's Pizza in Eugene, OR). It was fine. I would probably look the building up again if I ever found myself wanting to live in Eugene. We never had any problems with pests or noise or intrusive smells. It was just a normal apartment that happened to be pretty warm all the time. It was a pretty sweet deal. We never had to turn the heaters on, so utilities were cheap, and we always got discounted pizza.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:59 AM on June 11, 2012

I worked above a pizza restaurant. The cigarette smoke did not come in my office (unless the fire escape was open) and we did not have any smell issues. However, we did have mice especially when the seasons changed. But the most annoying thing was the 3 pm pounding of the pizza dough.

I think the key is asking a lot of questions to the current tenants (what is it like here? what do I have to look out for?) and the landlords (can we put a clause in my lease to deal with what the current tenants said was a problem).
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 10:11 AM on June 11, 2012

For what it's worth, I went to look anyway - it's only 2 blocks from my current apartment - and despite being a 900 sq ft 2-bedroom place, it had the smallest kitchen I've ever seen, including the mini-kitchen attached to a friend's 200 sq ft studio. NEXT!
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:12 PM on June 11, 2012

« Older xxx Nothing Is Fucked Here xxx   |   When you gotta go... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.