Please Don’t Be Seated

by admin on August 19, 2010

I’m rather curious as to what others will think about this incident. Honestly, I am willing to take the blame, so long as I am properly deserving of it.

My friend and I went to a restaurant in a busy city. It was around 1pm and the shop was booming… in fact, there was barely any room to sit. We were just getting dessert, so we got it to go and walked across the street to what we believed to be an empty pub, which wasn’t open. Since it wasn’t open yet (in fact, people kept walking up to it to go in and get food, but they kept walking away because it was closed) we sat down at one of the little tables outside and ate our desserts.

We were there about five minutes when a man comes out, totally peeved. He says, “What makes you think you have any right to come and sit at our tables without so much as asking?” His tone is very rude, but I respond that, “I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize you were open. We’ll move.”

I think what really bothers me is that if we were eating at the tables during a time when the establishment were open or if there were many people waiting for a table and we selfishly were sitting there, then I would completely understand. I can even understand that he doesn’t want us there simply because it’s HIS establishment. That’s fine! But did he really have to come out and be so rude about it when we said quite nicely, “Oh, so sorry we didn’t know, we’ll move?”

So he continues to tell us of his displeasure and I get a little upset and say, “I’m sorry sir, we believed you were a pub and you wouldn’t open until later. In my hometown it’s acceptable to sit at restaurant’s tables so long as they are not open.”

So he asks where I am from. I answer him… he mocks my hometown and goes indoors.

My friend and I go back to the busy place we bought our food from, wait for a table, sit down and eat the last three bites of our desserts.

Was I wrong? In my hometown it is acceptable to sit at the outside table and eat food if the restaurant isn’t open. If it is then it’s considered to be rude. I’m not upset he asked us to leave, just that he asked us to do so in such a coarse fashion. If I was horrible please tell me so I can improve my errors for the future. :) 0403-10

{ 78 comments… read them below or add one }

Kovitlac August 20, 2010 at 9:07 am

In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with what you did. You used tables that appeared to be out there for use (unless they were roped off, there was a sign, etc). Even if he was annoyed, he should have been more polite with potential future customers. I’d take this as a sign and not stop by again.

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Amazed August 20, 2010 at 12:00 pm

There are a lot of comments along the lines that the OP had no right to sit in the pub’s chairs as that is private property, just like a home front porch.

That is not correct.

Public property is land owned by the taxpayers: federal, state or local community owned land. This could be a national park, a community swimming pool, a town square.

Private property is land owned by individuals or corporations. Some privately owned property is open to the public: restaurants, department stores, movie theaters, etc. Other privately owned property is not open to the public: private residences, offices, workshops, etc.

Owners of private property that is open to the public may restrict the public’s use of that property, so long as the restriction is not due to protected characteristics such as race, national origen, religion, etc, unless the restriction due to a protected characteristic is sound public policy. For example, a ladies public restroom can be restricted to only females and males under the age of 6. There is sound public policy in sex-segregated restrooms that allows little boys to enter with their mothers, but no sound public policy in race-segregated restrooms.

There is nothing wrong with entering private property that is open to the public so long as the property owner’s restrictions are observed. It is up to the property owner to make it clear what restrictions exist on that property. A sign like “Tables are for the use of Customers only” would suffice.

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kero August 20, 2010 at 3:48 pm

I like Monica’s comment :o)

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Smiling Charmer August 20, 2010 at 4:51 pm

The restaurant owner was definitely rude, but I think it is extremely rude to sit at a restaurant’s table – even if it’s outside – to eat a competitor’s meal.

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Sharon August 20, 2010 at 5:20 pm

There is a vast difference to me in someone using my porch without my permission and someone using a table at and outdoor cafe before it opens.
I realize the man may have had his reasons for being a grump that have nothing to do possibly woth the people who were sitting at his table.
BUT… I assume the man is in business to make money. Unless the OP and her companion were making a mess, causing a scene, or taking a table that a paying customer needed, then the business owner was a colossal FOOL and a prima donna. He absolutely shot himself in the foot, costing himself future business.
I guess some of us will just have to agree to disagree on this.

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Monica August 20, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Just a quick follow up to my comment for those that may have misunderstood:

I did not mean the word ‘ignorance’ as an insult and my apologies if you took it as such. Despite it being used regularly in modern times as an insult, “ignorance” is the only word I know of in English that means “lacking knowledge or information as to a particular subject or fact.” It does not mean you are dumb or unable to learn, it simply means you do not know because you were never exposed to that information.

I am ignorant of the finer points of brain surgery because I’ve never studied medicine. It does not mean I am dumb or less of a person, I just don’t know the details. I am ignorant of that information.

If there is single word for such thing besides “ignorance,” well… I am ignorant on that subject. :-)

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TootsNYC August 20, 2010 at 8:19 pm

I want to know how it is that you are so very sure that it *IS* acceptable in your hometown to sit on someone else’s property.

I think that just because you see a few people doing it, that doesn’t mean it is completely acceptable. I would bet that those pub owners in your hometown think it’s rude.

And I think that universally, it is impolite to make use of someone else’s private property without their permission.

And wile I too admire Monica’s research, I would also point out (as a NYC resident) that many sidewalks here have property markers sunk into them about halfway across the sidewalk. So that portion of the sidewalk closest to the building may NOT be public, but may be private property that the owner is allowing to be used as a public thoroughfare. Or not, if he has allowed his tenant to put chairs there.

I also want to know this from the OP:
Why were you standing around there long enough to have a conversation with him? He said, “I can’t believe you have the nerve to come to the tables at MY pub to eat someone else’s food!” Why didn’t you say, “Oh, sorry,” and *leave*?

No wonder he went on to mock your town, YOU were arguing with him.
An important lesson I learned as a child–when you are in the wrong, you don’t continue to argue back.

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Stosh August 20, 2010 at 10:16 pm

You did nothing wrong. He was a butthead. You were gracious to leave, I would have made him call the cops with that attitude.

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Me August 21, 2010 at 1:17 am

I agree that there was nothing wrong with the OP returning to the original restaurant to finish her meal and I also agree that the owner was rude. However, I can understand how, “It’s okay where I’m from,” could be a bit grating, especially if it’s the tenth customer he’s had to shoo away that week or whatever. But I don’t think you did anything wrong.

Amazed, as some of the other commenters have pointed out, it’s probable that the owner had to file paperwork and pay a fee in order to use the sidewalk. I would argue that that would make the area the private property of the establishment.

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Ken August 21, 2010 at 10:59 am

I’ve worked in a restaurant in Pennsylvania for 13 years. Now, I have no idea where this story happened. I’ve read a few people say London, New York, etc. A lot of people have been mentioning that if the chairs and tables weren’t to be used, then they should have been put indoors, put upside down, roped off, etc. I’m not sure how many of you have worked in a restaurant environment, but if a restaurant opens at let’s say noon, the owners/employees don’t show up a noon and just open the doors for the customers. The fact that the owner was there leads me to believe that they were probably preparing to open. Which means there were probably people in the kitchen, getting food prepared, turning on equipment. It generally takes an hour for an commercial oven to get up to temperature. This also means that someone may have been putting the patio furniture out, or setting the chairs down, since if you open at noon, you’d want them to be down before you open. I agree with the majority of the posters on here. The OP was competely in the wrong to assume her and her friend could eat outside food at another establishment, whether it’s closed or not. I would also NEVER raise my voice, or insult a customer, unless they did something terrible to provoke me. However, I feel there is too much information missing from this story. We could go on and on discussing this, but just like my point of view, this story depends on a “what if.”

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ruby August 21, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Perhaps the bar is private property, but if I understand correctly you were sitting outside on a public sidewalk – yes? And, like you said, the bar was not doing business at the time and I presume you were well-behaved people. If that is the case, I see the bar owner as being in the same position as a home owner who happens to have a low concrete wall rimming the front of their property. If the front yard is empty and they don’t think they will be bothering you, people walking by will likely sit on the wall every once in a while. As long as the “sitters” don’t leave behind a huge mess / stay there for hours and hours or every day/ do rowdy or inappropriate things, it is perfectly socially acceptable for them to sit there. That being said, it is also well within the rights of the home owner to request that the “sitters” move somewhere else, regardless of whether or not the “sitters” are well-behaved and well-meaning … but if the home-owner really has such a problem with people sitting on their wall they should really put up a sign, and there is NO reason to be rude about it! I rule in favor of the OP – according to what she/he said, the bar owner WAS being rude.

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Jenna August 21, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Amazed, the difference is that this property was closed. Just because it is private property that is open to the public does not mean people have a right to be on that property when it is closed. The OP may not have seen a closed sign but I would be certain that there was one. On top of that, even if it had been open, the OP was bringing food from a different restaurant on the pub’s property. I do not see how the OP was in the right at all, with the exception that she apologized.

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Elizabeth Bunting August 21, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Well, if that is the only bad thing that happened to this restauranteur, I suppose he could count himself lucky.

Personally, I would NOT sit at a table where the restaurant was closed. If I wanted to use the facility of a restaurant, say even their washroom in an emergency, I would still feel obliged to purchase something because their facilities are for patrons only.

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Simone August 21, 2010 at 8:45 pm

While I agree that when travelling to a new area one should acquaint oneself with the local laws, I don’t think that I would extend that to sidewalk cafe ordinances (especially if they’re 32 pages long).

I strongly feel that there is far too much casual rudeness in this world. It causes many many more problems than one would even think possible. This is a minor one. If this man has had 32 000 unwanted people sitting at his tables, only one of them was the OP and she does not deserve the deflected ire from the other customers. If he had a toothache I feel sorry for him, but he has no right to inflict his pain on others. And so on.

For me the central point of this story is that even given that the OP was wrong in sitting at the tables it was a *mistake*. We all make them. Everyone. There is *no need* to respond to a mistake with rudeness. I’ll freely admit that I have bad days when I’m tired or unwell or whatever and take out my frustrations on others – I’m not perfect (only almost :) ). But I admit that it is my problem for being unnecessarily rude, not their problem for happening to be in my way at the wrong time.

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Wheelchair Bling August 22, 2010 at 12:25 pm

This restaurant owner was an utter dimwit – he should have been out there with a smile and a copy of the menu, saying “We open in thirty minutes, ladies, please join us!”

There were a couple of his prime potential customers – hungry people who like his tables – and he chased them right off…

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Jillybean August 22, 2010 at 3:08 pm

@Ruby – you seriously think that a home-owner should put up a sign telling people not to use their property as a lounge/bus stop/resting spot (etc) or whatever other thing people might be doing by sitting on the wall of someone’s property? Really? That’s not just a given in your book? If they have a couple of patio chairs out, too, should people just feel free to use them if there’s no sign telling them otherwise? Weird.

That said – I agree with Ken – they were likely setting up for the day and not just leaving the chairs out 24/7, because where I come from stores that leave tables and chairs out front when they aren’t open, won’t have tables and chairs for long.

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kjr August 23, 2010 at 11:07 am

First off, I think the owner of the pub/restaurant should not have reacted so rudely, it is not a good reflection of him or his establishment and could have asked more politely and been just as effective.

Now that is said, I do think that it is rude to sit at these tables eating food that is not provided from the establishment whether it was open or not. In my hometown, the downtown area has a lot of restaurants that have tables out on the sidewalk for the customers to enjoy being outside. I know that sidewalks are “public property” but these restaurants have to apply and pay for permits of these tables to be out. On top of that, what if someone was sitting at one of the tables when the restaurant wasn’t open, and happens to not enjoy the food they brought from somewhere else? If another potential patron comes up to the door thinking it was open (as the OP said kept happening), they could overhear the people discussing their disappointment in their meals and could take it as an opinion of this particular restaurant.

I do think a simple sign stating that the tables are only for use for customers during open hours would be an easy solution, but I would not think to sit at another restaurants outside seating to eat food from another establishment. The owner had a right to request they don’t sit there, but of course it was not right for him to go about it so rudely.

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Threepenny August 23, 2010 at 5:45 pm

@Wheelchairbling – how were they hungry customers? They were sitting there, without permission, eating food from another establishment.

That doesn’t spell hungry customers to me.

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lequinn August 28, 2010 at 11:00 pm

I’m very late, but this is a very interesting debate, if only because I would never, as an adult, think to sit at a pub’s outdoor seating when it was closed, and I’m surprised it’s considered OK anywhere. I mean, I can see getting away with it because the owner/employees aren’t there to say anything, but to me it seems like something teenagers who don’t care about things like trespassing would do. My neighborhood has many pubs, cafes, and restaurants with outdoor seating. All of it is established as part of the property, even if it’s accessible when they’re closed. I can think of one or two who actually use what I would consider public space, but they don’t leave tables and chairs outside when they’re closed. All things considered, I would bet that this was not a table sitting in public, but clearly the pub’s outdoor seating, most likely surrounded by a gate of some kind. IMO, the owner may have been mean, but the OP was 100% wrong. Arguing that everyone does it back home instead of just leaving was rude, and cancels out the fact that the owner wasn’t nice about the whole thing. If the OP had just apologized and left and the owner followed them down the street yelling at them, it would have been another story.

And going back to the original restaurant and waiting(!) for a table to finish three bites is very rude, and punishes the server who had nothing at all to do with the OP’s hurt feelings. Unless they left another tip, which I’m kind of doubting.

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bonbiz August 30, 2010 at 4:43 pm

I don’t think the owner should have been so rude to you but a couple of things to consider:

1) He may have to deal with people loitering on his property frequently; so, that history may have contributed to his tone. (I believe technically you were loitering.)
2) By eating items other that what he serves (or when he serves it) in his pub, you are providing “false marketing” to passersbys. They may see you with a delicious cake and expect to eat cake at that pub – or expect to eat when they saw you. You may be the stimulus for others trying to enter his pub too early, which will distract him and his workers from other, time-sensitive tasks.

I am in no way condoning his behavior – or his lack to address the root cause of issues to prevent behavior which bothers him. However, once asked to leave (whatever the tone), one should leave, unless it is clearly within your rights not to.

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phoenix September 12, 2010 at 4:16 am

Monica- the reason we were insulted by your comment wasn’t so much because of the word ignorance, but you’re blanket applying of it to everyone. many of us are familiar with local laws, we just don’t feel the need to post a summary of it when the simple truth of rude behavior is much simpler.

Amazed- private property is open to the public is at the owners discretion. The only thing that makes it different from private property is that the owners are subjected to a different set of laws, often depending on locality- i.e. a restaurant owner must allow service animals because it is law, while your friend having a party at his house does not. Basically, laws governing public property supersede your personal choices as a business owners in some cases. But unless you local area has a LAW that you must allow people access to your place of business at all times, it is still fully within trespassing to use such private property as if it was public space. It isn’t public space just because it’s opened to the public at the owners pleasure. And to assume that privately owned property is fully available to the public is silly. You can’t walk your dog in the zoo even if their is nobody there and space to do it, either, and that’s even public funded (unlike a restaurant.)

The OP never said this took place on a sidewalk, just the pub’s outdoor seating. That’s private property, which is technically trespassing. Some people might not care, but if they do, move on.

I find it hilarious how many posters think you have to put up signs and ropes to tell people that they aren’t allowed to use private property as public. Um, it’s already a law, people. Trespassing is illegal. Sitting on private property without the owners permission, is trespassing. Part of the foundation of criminal law is that you are held to be responsible for it on your own. The liquor store does not have a responsibility to put up a sign telling you “sticking bottles in your coat and sneaking away without paying is strongly discouraged”. The bank neglecting to remind you that you’re only allowed to take out your own money does not give you an excuse for robbery.

Again, most people don’t care, and the owner could have been more tactful. But how self-entitled to exclaim that unless someone anticipates you breaking the law and puts up signs specifically telling you not to, that they should expect you to do whatever you want!

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phoenix September 12, 2010 at 4:23 am

Allison- so, you were in her area, she informed you you couldn’t be and…you argued? And you think she was the rude one?

The manager does not need to magically “know” that you will clean up after yourself, or that you are OCD. And frankly, it would have been rude to most people for her to tell you to clean up you mess. Regardless, it’s kind of moot. Most people do not clean up, and most people would lie and say they would. Not that you were, but I’m not sure how you can blame a manager for not knowing that.

You weren’t supposed to be there. The employees don’t want to clean up after you. You were a potential mess. If you had accidentally spilled something despite OCD, her girls would still have been cleaning up after you. I can’t blame the manager for telling you to shift it. Nor can I blame her for overbearing posture when you are arguing that you can sit there because…you want to.

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Erica September 14, 2010 at 2:15 pm

It was rude to sit at an establishment where you did not purchase your food. And just because no one in your home town has ever reprimanded you it does not mean that they do not think that you are rude there as well. The tables and chairs are their property, the need to keep them clean and organized for their clients. You cost them time (which in costs of labor equals money) when they have to clean up after you. He may have not talked to you with respect but you were on his property.

I manage a coffee shop and daily I have to clean up our patio from people who hauled in their own food after we were closed so that they could enjoy our outdoor seating and umbrellas. Put yourself in someone else’s shoe before you think the world is your oyster.

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Age September 16, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Wow, this was actually my story… sort of funny to find it here…

Just to clarify, we didn’t actually know that the restaurant was closed until we walked across the street. The original plan was to go in and buy a soft drink of some sort. Unfortunately it was closed, so my friend says, “Oh, let’s just wait. Maybe it will open and we can go in then.”
Poor man lost some business I’m afraid…

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lkb September 17, 2010 at 5:28 am

Sorry, Age, but couldn’t your friend have checked when the business’ hours were? (Most have them posted somewhere.)
Reading all the comments, I must say, I still think you were right to apologize and wrong to use their tables and go back to the other establishment.
Legally, you were trespassing, no way to get around that.
You were indeed offering the false impression to passersby that the place was open and you were eating the kind of food it served.
Also, if the plan was to buy a soft drink, you would have been going in there carrying food from the competition across the street???? I don’t think I understand that one at all.
I’m sorry the owner was rude (which could have been for many reasons — from a toothache, to business troubles, to family troubles to your being the umpteenth people he’s had to shoo away while he was trying to open up (maybe having to clean up, repair or replace items damaged, stolen etc. by others), but…

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lkb September 17, 2010 at 5:32 am

@OP. I’m sorry to be blunt here but the original post ended with:
“Was I wrong? In my hometown it is acceptable to sit at the outside table and eat food if the restaurant isn’t open. If it is then it’s considered to be rude. I’m not upset he asked us to leave, just that he asked us to do so in such a coarse fashion. If I was horrible please tell me so I can improve my errors for the future.”
Well, it seems that many posters here are saying, you were — not “horrible” — but at least partially in the wrong. Please take note of their comments in the future so you can “improve your errors” (how does one do that by the way? LOL!)

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Moi September 20, 2010 at 12:55 am

The pub owner was quite rude but maybe he couldn’t contain his anger. It is ridiculous but some people are like that. He certainly had no need to shout and make such a fuss about it.

Personally, I would not go and sit at the patio tables and chairs of a closed restaurant. It is no outrageously rude or anything but I don’t think it is correct. One should not take their food to another restaurant to eat because the original didn’t have space. It is like going to a clothing store and all the changing rooms are taken up so you take your clothes and go next door to change.

I find it funny that some people here think that patio tables need to be roped off etc. Imagine a sign saying “no trespassers with food obtained outside of this restaurant”

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Me January 8, 2011 at 6:44 am

I know many people who do things like this. I personally think it’s horrifying. If I am not paying a business for their services, I certainly don’t think their property is free for my use.

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