by Jonathan T. Howe, Esq. | May 01, 2015
At a recent meeting, noise from a construction project in the hotel was so annoying, it was almost impossible for attendees to focus on their work. For their complaint to be heard, the convention services manager was contacted, who in turn called the director of sales, who then went to the general manager. But the problem was only resolved by time: The noise stopped around 4:30 p.m., when the construction crew was done for the day -- and, of course, so was the meeting.  

Quiet, Please
Over the years, I have suggested that all venue contracts should have a clause guaranteeing a group's right to have "quiet enjoyment" of the premises that are licensed or otherwise allowed to be used. If the hotel is aware that a loud event or construction might occur that would be disruptive to attendees, the clause would require the venue to take steps to prevent the interruptions from bothering the group or to take some other remedial action.

We do not see these clauses often enough, but without them, your event might be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

By Extension
Ancillary to "quiet enjoyment" are contract provisions that deal with possible business interruptions -- for example, if the power goes off and an exhibit hall goes dark. While generators might turn some lights back on, power to the booths or rooms probably won't be returned until the problem is fixed. Another meeting disaster would be Internet failure.

In dealing with such possibilities, the term "quiet enjoyment" is not enough. You need to spell out what the event environment needs to be to meet your needs. Noise, noxious fumes, etc., should be considered, as well as any other disruption that would impact your event. Note, however, this extends only to the environment the venue is responsible for providing.

Show Floors
With trade shows, however, the clause should extend a bit further, to include ways exhibitors might disrupt each other.

I remember one convention where an exhibitor held a tremendous giveaway that drew lots of people to the booth, so many that they spilled out into the surrounding aisles. One of the neighboring exhibitors was quite delighted because he got substantially more traffic flow by his 10-by-10-foot booth than otherwise would be the case. But at the same time, another exhibitor was very upset because he was trying to do product demonstrations that required rapt attention by the audience.

Thus with trade shows, you might consider putting limitations in exhibitor contracts, describing permissible behaviors and forbidden activities, with the right to remove the exhibitor from the show at your discretion.

Jonathan T. Howe, Esq., is a senior partner of the Chicago, St. Louis and Washington, D.C., law firm of Howe & Hutton Ltd., specializing in meetings and hospitality law. Email questions to him at [email protected]