Guess I am just more stubborn and patient I guess.
I did have another idea as to how to possibly convince them to do separate checks. Say "Ohh well in that case ill just not order, if i get thirsty i'll go to the bar and pay directly there for a drink" Seeing their tip not only evaporate but go to someone else, might cause people to pause.
And again, I'm stubborn, I would have no issue with this. Nor do I find it rude.
Again might be regional but in NYC many places will charge you for just sitting at the table. Lots of restaurants have discreet signs or notes on their menus saying that even if you don't order if you are sitting there, there will be a plate charge. Many have plate sharing fees too.
This is their business and every seat is their real estate that should be making them money. Its not a public atrium - if you want to sit you are welcome to find an atrium, there are lots throughout the city, but in a restaurant you are expected to buy something... or barring that, at least pay something.
So you could sit there and only order drinks, or even only order an appetizer, but if you are sitting at their table, especially if its busy night, you will get a check even if you order nothing (and in reality the person who orders nothing probably eats the table bread, and partakes in having their water glass filled numerous times, and the flatware and glass and napkin still need to be cleared and cleaned, etc, so its not like "oh its free for me to sit here!" because its not, its costing the them the seat which could go to a paying customer, an its costing them in they are still serving you and providing for you).
Depending on the plate charge there is a good change id just ask "so can i get that on a separate check?" And yes, there is a good chance i would pay it. Also, i did mention going to the bar to buy drinks directly, hence they are getting money from me and i am indeed a paying customer. No i would not eat the bread in this circumstance it would not feel right. I promise you I am not all evil.
Also, the seat could not go to a paying customer if it is already at that table. If they give me crap about a plate charge ill happily leave if that is really what they want. It is not like they are going to fill the seat at a group table. In fact id likely push for the entire group to leave then they really have lost money. I just would not feel comfortable in many cases with the joint check. If that means walking out, I walk out. If they really want to say "we won't let you pay but you have to leave if you will not order" I'll leave. I am not going to be bullied, and i just don't see having an empty chair at a table being good for them.
Or, they can just split the check make money and keep a customer happy. This is not a case of not wanting to buy something, it is a case of wanting to pay for only my order on my credit card. If it is really too much work to accommodate that ill grab something on the way home and the caveman's "I don't have much of an appetite thank you" line. Heck id likely toss out the line "If i agree to an automatic tip of (higher than the group charge) will you give me a separate check?" Not not to be snarky, but to acknowledge that it is additional work, and work I am actually willing to pay for.
Another thing i might try is to see if they would waive the sit fee if i purchased a gift certificate on my own card of a greater value. Which would seem fair and reasonable to them. Then they are guaranteed at least the cost of the plate fee and may end up with more as we all know people tend to spend more than is on a gift certificate.