The restaurant I wrote about yesterday contacted me this morning, specifically the manager on duty (who is also a managing partner). I really appreciate that he reached out to us.
He wanted to correct and also confirm some of the things that I wrote about yesterday.
First of all, he didn’t intend to tell me that I couldn’t drink. He apologized for the communication being unclear and said he noticed that I wasn’t drinking at the table.
Second, he confirmed that he was watching us during our time there and apologized if that made us uncomfortable. He explained that he did that because our table was so close to the bar.
I think there’s a way to watch a customer without making them feel watched. I think this was the point at which we felt unwelcomed. We were willing to do whatever they were asked us to do when we sat down. We also intentionally chose to sit at the table next to the other family because we knew families could sit in that area (since they were there).
But it was very noticeable when he kept coming over. I think in this situation, if the manager feels that rules could get broken, there’s a way to watch us without making us feel watched. He could have turned each time into an interaction with us and asked how we were doing. He could have asked the staff to be vigilant (and perhaps he did, for all I know). Instead, he just kept checking on what we were doing.
It just seemed a bit unlikely that we’d be able to run over to the bar, quickly get a drink from the bartender, and then down it before the manager even knew what was happening.
I’m also sympathetic to the rules. Some commenters brought up how difficult things are on bars, especially in the DC area. I haven’t ever managed at one in DC proper, so I can’t claim to know what the experience is like.
Here are some points readers have made in the comments about the difficulties the restaurant may be facing:
My guess is that the policy is in place because there’s a regulatory hammer that comes down hard if the wrong thing happens–and who knows? Maybe you’re a sting operation. As you’re a regular customer it might be worth asking as this might have been a legal and regulatory gray area for them.
Why bash the restaurant? This is clearly behavior driven by government. It would be irrational otherwise.
I blame regulators and their undercover investigators who make the stakes for noncompliance so high that places won’t take any chances.
The part that really got to me is the watching. Especially after reading the comments, I understand why they need to be vigilant. But this one comment really sums up how I felt:
What’s crazy to me is that they still treated you like that even though you TOLD them she was underage. If you’d been just a friend trying to get alcohol for her, you would have at least tried to bluff about how old she was, or at least dodge the question.
I’m in my 30s. I wasn’t a 21-year old who was sneaking her 20 year-old friend in. I was upfront about her being under 21. I was upfront about our relationship. And they admittedly watched us while we were there.
I think this all could have been avoided with friendlier, more open communication. If the manager had said (kindly), “Just remember, she’s not 21 yet–so I just need to remind you that I can’t let you stay if she touches alcohol”. And if the manager had interacted with us rather than watching us, we would have felt welcome in the establishment.
I want to emphasize that I really appreciate the restaurant reaching out to me so quickly. And I appreciate that it was the direct manager we interacted with. I just think this experience could have been completely different if he hadn’t approached the situation this way.