I hate booths. More than hate them, I’m uncomfortable sitting in them. They are generally not very accessible for anyone with a disability issue. I always ask for a table over a booth, and if the place has those bar-height tables, a low table. Is this super annoying? Should I qualify that it’s a disability issue (I don’t “look” disabled).
The Booth Hater
Dear Booth Hater,
You’re not alone in hating booths, and you’re certainly not alone in preferring a certain type of table for mobility reasons.
Whatever your reason is for preferring a certain type of seating, ask for it. The worst a host or server can tell you is that they don’t have any of those tables open at the moment. They should then offer to make you comfortable while you wait for one to open up. Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, small businesses like restaurants that have tables or chairs secured to the ground or wall must have five percent of those tables that are accessible to people who use wheelchairs or have other disabilities.
I wanted to make sure I was getting my facts straight here, doll, so I called up a very polite young man named Chris Sweet who is a technical assistant with the Northeast ADA Center. He says, yep, just ask for the table you’d like, but whether the restaurant can seat you there comes down to whether there’s a non-booth seat open.
“When the ADA standards are met as far as physical layout [of the restaurant], it becomes the responsibility of the restaurant to make those seating decisions,” he says. “Accessible features come down to a first-come, first-serve situation.”
It’s up to you whether you’d like to mention why you need to be seated at a non-booth, but it’s no business’s business to interrogate or evaluate your level of disability. The goal for a host or server should be to make people comfortable, whether that’s seating them at a table away from a cold air conditioner if they ask, or seating them closer to the door if they ask. Unlike plain ol’ persnickety people, you have a health reason for wanting to be seated at a low table, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get one right away.
Make your preferences clear and the establishment should do everything they can to seat you at a table that makes you comfortable. It might just take a few minutes.
Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or are you a server/bartender with a horror story the world needs to hear? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.