Minneapolis City Council Member Jacob Frey has introduced an ordinance that would require all establishments with on-sale liquor licenses to provide free earplugs to patrons and employees.
"The key piece of this is that it will not cost business owners a single dime ever," Frey told us this afternoon. "These earplugs are being provided for free by a campaign that has been launched to prevent hearing loss, which is a quite prevalent issue, especially recently."
Frey said a consortium of businesses and nonprofits, including 3M and Miracle Ear, have agreed to provide earplugs for free. If the freebies are no longer available, the ordinance would no longer be in force.
"The requirement imposed by this section shall not apply unless the license official has identified a source or supplier of such hearing protection devices that is capable of providing sufficient devices free of charges to all such establishments," the ordinance says.
Frey said his proposal was motivated by a combination of feedback from constituents and his own research into hearing loss.
"This is mainly for young people who wear headphones with the decibel level juiced through the roof, then in evenings they head out to the club," he said. "This will be an issue decades down the road and it's just giving them an option to throw some earplugs in.
"The bars and venues I've talked to have been very supportive," Frey added.
A public hearing about Frey's proposed ordinance will be held next month. He acknowledged it's still a bit of a work in progress, as it remains to be determined whether the finished product will cover all bars or just those that play music above a certain yet-to-be-determined volume.
"I go out as much as the next person," Frey said. "This is just about having the option for an individual to protect their ears if they want to, and all businesses have to do is have this box providing free earplugs sitting on their shelves."