Dear Salty: I was reading on your site about a server at a Chicago cocktail bar who spat on Eric Trump, and it had me thinking. I’ve been a waiter for a few months at a restaurant in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Our restaurant is frequented by those who work in politics (pretty much unavoidable), and thankfully for me, most of them are anonymous faces. But I fear what my reaction would be if someone I recognized, who has done harm to my causes, came into our restaurant.
I know those who’d argue: “Just do your job,” but this isn’t a job I’ll hold forever and I’d hate myself if I served someone who’s destructive to all I stand for. How would you handle this?
Well this is just a can of worms, isn’t it?
This isn’t something you can answer in one pat sentence, because so much of this is about you, your relationship to that restaurant, and how loud that voice inside you is shouting.
Some of this is a generational thing. Poor Salty, who’s sadly no spring chicken anymore, was brought up at a time when you served absolutely everyone with a smile, as long as they wore shoes and a shirt and weren’t itching to start a fight. Which is to say, I’ve served a lot of jerks, judging by the ugly conversations I would overhear at the table. They’re here to eat, not to change my views, and their money is as good to spend as a saint’s.
But this is 2019, and there seems to be a spate of politicians being kicked out and confronted at restaurants. Times change, and so does acceptable behavior. But I’m terribly old-school, and in my humble Salty opinion it may reflect badly on our industry. After all, hospitality means being hospitable, and me being serious at my job, I want to ensure all my guests have the best experience I can offer. You, of course, might feel differently.
Rather than escalate the situation, may I suggest a few things: If this person is someone you find truly detestable (and it doesn’t have to be a politician... what if Martin Shkreli walks in?), just remember you are working for someone else, so I’d pull your manager aside and explain your situation. Maybe see if the manager would switch your tables. I always think: “Out of sight, out of mind.”
But say you’re the owner, and Sen. Reinhold McPatriarchy comes in for lunch. You have to weigh the satisfaction of not serving the person, and having your business hated by half the country on social media. Know that your Yelp page will be deluged by one-star reviews by people who’ve never stepped foot inside. If your moral code can withstand that sort of bullshit, then go right on ahead and do what you gotta do. You may realize your pride is worth more than a bunch of screaming Twitter eggs.
Editor’s Note: A reader wrote in after publication of this column about how D.C. has a law, the DC Human Rights Act of 1977, prohibiting government agencies and private businesses from discriminating against one’s political affiliation. But this, too, falls under a gray area. Read more about it at DCist.
Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or are you a server/bartender with a horror story the world needs to hear? Email us: email@example.com.