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Fly in wine norms? [moved from Ontario board]

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Question... So yesterday some friends and I were dining at Habitat for their summerlicious and split a bottle of wine with dinner. A small fly landed in my friend's glass of wine (it was maybe two thirds full) so we asked for a new glass. She was given a new glass and the remaining wine from our bottle was poured into the glass. The full cost of the wine was on our bill and no offer was made by the waitstaff to comp my friend a glass of wine (house wine would have been fine). Two more flies landed in her new full wine glass shortly, and my friends and I offered to pay for a glass of wine for her but she declined, saying she had enough. We were sitting inside but the doors were open... not like we were sitting on the patio.

My question is, should they have comped my friend a glass of wine? What is the norm for when a fly lands in your wine glass? Should we have complained? We ended up not tipping on the wine, however, I'm not sure they got the message, they may have just thought we were cheap.

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  1. This is a good question. I don't know that there's a single answer on this, but here's my take, as a customer. Flies aren't the restaurant's responsibility, in summer, when windows, and doors, are open. My response, when a fly lands in my glass, is "Oh F***", scoop it out, and then you can either order a new glass (and pay for it) or continue drinking the wine (usually what I do). I think, as well, that since flies had presented themselves as a problem already, and she allowed two more flies into her glass, it certainly made it her problem, not the resto's to the point of comping her repeated glasses. Although, that said, that's the origin of tapas - covering the glass. Why not ask for a coaster?

    1 Reply
    1. re: hungry_pangolin

      She "allowed" two more flies to get into her glass? Meaning what, that she didn't keep her hand over the top of her glass the whole time?


      Flies inside the restaurant are the restaurant's problem. The idea that there were *so many* flies, uh, *inside" the resto means the resto *really* had a serious unmanaged problem. Flies, uh, lay eggs. Lots of places in a resto (garbage, etc.) flies like. When the maggots hatch, lots of flies. Inside. Oh my. Appetizing.

      At the very least, two glasses of wine from the wine-by-the-glass list should have been comped, otherwise half the price of the bottle of wine or the entire bottle should have been comped.

      Fishing a fly out of a liquid and then drinking it? Small fruitfly maybe OK, but regular fly?

      Last comment goes to Amber: Why oh why didn't you or your friend speak up to the manager??

      Bottom line: The diners didn't have a good experience at Habitat, Habitat comes off looking like it's got a sanitation problem, and neither of you want to return to the resto.
      The bad publicity alone is a killer. Perhaps print this thread and share it with the manager. Next time, speak up!

    2. A fly in my alcoholic drink would certainly not keep me from drinking it. I wonder why they liked her glass so much more than the others at the table. THREE in a row and you were indoors? Not a good sign.

      I can't tell from your original post whether you made the server aware that the other uninvited guests landed in her new glass. If so, I would expect a comp since there was an obvious problem. If not, one fly does not a free glass make, in my opinion.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mojoeater

        I'd have been more concerned had the door been closed, but the OP mentions the door being open, presumably because of the weather, so it is like sitting outside. Fortunes of war.

      2. After the first fly, I'd be draping my napkin over the glass. I can understand the outrage if you were at a restaurant without any open windows, but in the summer when the windows are open you just deal with it. If this kind of thing really bothers you, just dine at places that are tightly shut, or have window screens. Should the restaurant have comped? If they wanted to be extra nice, sure, but I'd never expect it.

        1. Since you were inside, I would have expected replacement wine (not the same as comping it, there would be no change to your bill, but more wine in place of the ruined glass). Not your choice to have the doors open I presume. Maybe the restaurant did not OWE you, but it would have been the gracious thing to do. If they find themselves doing it too often, they should rethink the open-door policy.
          We had a fly land in my friend's mimosa on Allen's patio, and it was replaced immediately... with the suggestion that she cover her glass with a coaster.

          1. Was it a big nasty fly or was it a fruit fly? I am assuming it was a fruit fly, they LOVE wine. You've got to put a coaster or a napkin over your drink if there is a way for flies to get into your glass (waiter should have suggested this after the first fly). Also don't forget to lightly put the cork on your bottle too. Those fruit flies will file in like soldiers. Just one or two flies you can pick out, but when they get in that bottle you can get 5 or 6 or 10.... it gets out of control.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Lemonii

              seems unfair to penalise the restaurant if a fly falls into your wine or food if you are sitting outside or in warm weather when doors and windows are open. It can hardly be their fault can it?

                1. re: smartie

                  Thirding this one. If the doors are open, its actually very much like you're sitting on the patio and you have to sort of treat it the same way I think.

              1. Amber, were these regular flies or fruitflies?

                2 Replies
                1. re: maria lorraine

                  Sorry, for the late reply -- this post was moved from the Ontario board, which I wasn't aware of until today.

                  These flies were fruit flies.

                  Yes, when we asked the waiter to replace the glass we told him it was because there were flies in it.

                  I'm not saying the restaurant OWED us a glass of wine, it's one of those things where it's very nice if they do but they're obviously not obligated to. I mentioned the incident to a friend before my post and she said earlier that week she had been at East Side Mario's and a fly was crawling around her ceasar salad while she was sitting on the patio with a friend for lunch. Not only did the resto replace her salad, but they comped her and her friend the entire meal. And that's a chain restaurant.

                  Thanks for all the input. I really like the coaster on the glass idea, I will definitely put that to good use in the future.

                  1. re: Amber

                    eh, I think comping is completely out of control. it was very nice of them to replace her salad, but comping the whole meal? ridiculous. it wasn't the restaurant's fault; why should they suffer the consequences?

                2. Ever think about where that fly has been before it plops into your wine or soup?

                  Flies love rotting matter, decaying garbage, dog or cat feces, any kind of trash, to begin with. Flies commonly pick up E. coli, salmonella, staph, listeria, shigella, and a jillion other things, and then transfer that filth to your wine or soup.

                  I am not at all a germ-o-phobe but fishing out a fly doesn’t fish out all the nasty stuff.

                  Fruit flies aren’t any better than houseflies. Think of where they like to hang out: rotting fruit and dirty trash containers.

                  Still want to drink that wine or eat that soup?

                  There are more issues in this situation than three flies in a wine glass.

                  The first issue is, of course, disease. Remember: If there are three flies, there are a couple hundred of them. And that means they've already visited your food a few times in the kitchen.

                  Comparing how one would handle a fly at home to a fly problem in a restaurant is not relevant: A restaurant serving the public must be held to a higher standard.

                  Some other issues:

                  Laws about screens on windows and doors according to the Health Department:
                  What are they? Many provinces/cities have rules that if a restaurant's doors or windows are open, they must have screens. Is an ordinance like that applicable here? That's one of the first things to check.

                  Lots of flies INSIDE the restaurant are a bad sign for three reasons:
                  -- Indicative of *future* infestation. Flies will soon find a yummy piece of garbage or food morsel hidden somewhere, or the side of a drain below the lid, and then lay eggs. Those will hatch and then fly around.
                  -- Indicative of *current* infestation. Flies have already laid eggs and the maggots have hatched.
                  -- Indicative of poor garbage control, either at your restaurant or by your neighbors.

                  Lack of employee training:
                  The waitstaff in this situation was not trained to ask the manager’s advice in uncomfortable situations. The situation could have been handled beautifully, and the guests would have been left with the impression that the meal was a good experience, but instead the waitstaff just winged it – did what they thought best, even though it wasn’t good customer service.

                  Lack of restaurant oversight:
                  Three flies at one meal at one table means there were lots of flies. Didn’t any employee notice the number of flies flying around and think to mention it to a manager?

                  Once a fly problem is noticed, abatement tactics have to kick in fast:
                  *Close the doors and windows so no more flies enter and disturb other patrons’ dining.
                  *Fly strips hung in kitchen and other work areas out of sight of diners
                  *Customer service protocol established: Manager says to servers: “We have a little problem with flies. If it’s a glass of wine, offer comp of any wine by the glass. If more than that, come see me, and I will handle.”

                  Bad PR, loss of business, the “ewww” factor:
                  Flies in foods/beverages are unseemly and create a bad impression. This post on Chowhound, and the resulting loss of business at Habitat, even small, is real. It would have been cheaper to comp the bottle of wine. And would have kept our OP and table of friends happy, eager to return again because of their last happy dining experience.

                  Dining outside:
                  Granted the diner takes a greater risk dining outside. But if the problem of flies and insects is a consistent problem while dining on the patio, it still needs to be addressed by the restaurant. A look at the neighbors’ garbage and any other sources of flies -- empty produce boxes, drains, manholes and water pathways -- are all in order. Hidden fly strips are hung. Certainly a protocol for dealing with a diner's food or wine when it has drowned a flying visitor should be established. The flies need to be “redirected” to a more appropriate place. If the problem is ongoing and frequent, outdoor dining may not be feasible. At a restaurant, frequent contamination of food by flying insects/flies is not acceptable inside or outside. Once again, a review of the applicable ordinances for outdoor resto dining in a particular city/province is required by the owner.

                  Bottom Line:
                  The diner is under no circumstances responsible.
                  Asking the diner to manage the problem is unacceptable. Following the coaster on the glass logic, should the diner place her menu over her tomato soup as well?
                  It is the restaurant’s responsibility to make sure a diner’s food will not be contaminated by any source, including flies.
                  In the event it is, adequate compensation needs to take place. Maybe not comping, but replacing.

                  Granted, a single fly in one’s wine or soup is not always a big deal. But if the diner is uncomfortable, then it becomes a big deal, and needs to be addressed. Also, apart from any legal or illness issues, three flies at one meal at one table is a big deal.

                  -- Former restaurant manager, kitchen manager and chef

                  Please read about flies and disease at

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    I really think we're overreacting here. Travelling outside the antiseptic borders of North America, you very soon learn not to freak out over a fly or two - disease potential notwithstanding. Go complain about a fly at a cafe in Paris and see what happens.

                    1. re: Nyleve

                      Just wanted to point out the other issues involved that may not be obvious.

                      You're certainly entitled to your opinion, Nyleve, as am I, as is the OP. Paris is my former hometown and Parisians hate anything that corrupts their French food. Food is sacred there.

                      The main point of this thread might possibly be not about the three flies in the wine, but the idea that the diners were upset and their concerns were not heeded.

                      Three flies for one diner at one meal. Not just one.

                    2. re: maria lorraine

                      I'm not minimising the health concerns involved with flies in wine or food, but if one dines al fresco, one assumes the attendant risks and responsibilities. Here in Toronto (where the OP dined), a number of restaurants have 'garage door' windows, allowing the restauarant to open up (literally) to the street, and I don't know anyone who isn't grateful for them, even though, yes, flies are then allowed in. Maria Lorraine, you seem to have assumed that the flies originated in the kitchen, even though OP attributes them to the open door. As to covering one's soup, flies are less likely there because one is, by one's activity with it, keeping the flies away, where as one tends not to be drinking constantly (I hope), thereby leaving the wine unprotected. I don't object to putting a coaster or napkin on my glass. Being an adult, I learn from my circumstances... "oh, there are flies interested in my wine... perhaps I should cover it." And having had the pleasure of eating in the Third World, I won't let a fly or three ruin my night out.

                    3. Toronto law, Regulation 562, requires screens on windows or doors if they are open.


                      A diner does not, as Hungry Pangolin asserts, assume the attendant risks dining indoors or out. I'm aware it's done all the time and the fresh air is certainly refreshing, but any restaurant with garage-door windows (or any kind of windows) or doors without screens who opens them is doing so illegally.

                      Now, I want to be clear. I believe in letting lots of things slide. One must to live gracefully in this world. I travel internationally often and don't get upset about flies. I am also not a huge stickler on ordinances or laws, but the law in this case clearly protects the diner and Habitat did not do that in this situation.

                      The restaurant was at fault -- legally. The diner was not.

                      Does that mean the diner has to get upset about a fly or three? Nope. But when the diner WAS upset, her concerns should have commanded immediate attention on several fronts.

                      We can each have our opinions about whether or not the OP and her dining companion should have become upset about the flies or not, but the law is on the OP and her dining companion's side in this.

                      It is not the diner's responsibility to put a coaster over her glass of wine. Yes, doing so provides a practical, immediate solution, but the diner is not required to employ her own improvised fly abatement program. Once again, not my opinion, Toronto law.

                      In fact, all our opinions on this thread are moot because Toronto law protects the OP's complaint and sees it as being valid. She is entitled to two comped or replaced glasses of wine. Please check the regulations.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        I didn't say that you "claimed", I said "seem to have assumed". I didn't say that it was the diner's *legal* responsibility to cover her drink, I said that it was the adult response to the situation. Let's face it, if outside, or otherwise exposed to outside, you can assume that a fly is going to be present.

                        As to Regulation 562, it doesn't make specific mention of screens over windows, unless I missed it, in which case you can correct me by indicating which clause/subclause, in which case you have my apology. There is a clause, 59(e)(ii) which reads in part "every room where food is... served... is kept free from... live birds and animals," but given the terms of the clause, I don't think that flies are the intended object.

                        Moreover, if the kitchen is kept clean, and food properly stored, there should not be any fly eggs being laid and future generations taking up residence, even if they do visit the dining room through the open door/window.

                        1. re: hungry_pangolin

                          Hi, HP,

                          First point: "I didn't say that you "claimed", I said "seem to have assumed".

                          Not trying truly, HP, to throw gasoline on the blaze, but I don't know to what your words "claimed" or “seems to have assumed” are referring. I've re-read my posts and have never assumed or indicated the OP’s flies were coming from the kitchen.

                          We sure hope these are door flies. But we cannot know that. Those flies might be the product of eggs hatched earlier, flying around in addition to those entering through the door. We simply cannot know.

                          Second point: “I didn't say that it was the diner's *legal* responsibility to cover her drink…“ HP, I know you’ve never said this and I’ve never implied ever that you did. Please re-read my post if this is your impression, because it’s incorrect.

                          Third point: “I said that it was the adult response to the situation.”
                          Your use of “adult” is a good term for this kind of behavior. It's very similar to my saying earlier that covering a glass is a "practical, immediate solution" to prevening flies getting in the wine glass. We agree here, partly.

                          But as we all know, folks aren’t always adult or practical. Sometimes diners are distracted, unobservant, engaged in conversation, or merely too slow to realize flies are buzzing around them before one lands in their wine or food.

                          The law protects such un-adultlike, distracted, unobservant behavior. If a fly falls into your food or beverage, it is the resto’s legal responsibility to correct the situation. You don’t have to suffer any loss as a diner for this situation. It’s your right to receive a replacement. Period. The law protects you.

                          Fourth point: “As to Regulation 562, it doesn't make specific mention of screens over windows, unless I missed it, in which case you can correct me by indicating which clause/subclause, in which case you have my apology.”

                          Thank you for taking the time to read Reg. 562. I’ve spoken with the Toronto Public Health Restaurant Inspectors office four times over the last two days (phone 416-338-3663.) Screens on resto windows and doors are covered under both the Building Code and under Reg. 562, sect 11. (a) (i) (ii) or (iii):
                          “11. Every food premise shall be operated and maintained such that,
                          (a) the premises are free from every condition that may,
                          (i) be a health hazard,
                          (ii) adversely affect the sanitary operation of the premises, or
                          (iii) adversely affect the wholesomeness of food therein;”

                          But in the second link I listed, the DineSafe Toronto website, you clearly see a section on Pest Control with:
                          “8. Pest Control
                          • Cover any openings to prevent pests from entering.
                          • Eliminate any food or water sources for pests.
                          • Consider obtaining a contract with a licensed pest control operator. “

                          Fifth point: “Moreover, if the kitchen is kept clean, and food properly stored, there should not be any fly eggs being laid and future generations taking up residence, even if they do visit the dining room through the open door/window.”

                          Keeping pests away requires far more actions than these. Please investigate what needs to be done both practically to keep pests away, and legally to pass inspection.

                          HP, I'm done now. You know my position:
                          I'm with the OP and her dining companions on this.
                          I'm with any diner who runs into this situation.
                          I think it's nice if you (and other diners) are adults and use a coaster to prevent fly accidents, but if you forget or don't for any reason, I’m still on your side and think you deserve a replacement item.
                          I also think that's the ethical approach to the situation.
                          I think it's good business – from a money standpoint, Habitat has lost more profit because of this than it would have if they'd comped the entire bottle of wine.
                          I think flies in food or wine are not the problem of the diner, ever.
                          The law is on the diner's side too.
                          I think flies in food or wine are always the resto's problem.
                          The Toronto Health Inspectors think that too.
                          Even if you disagree with me, the law is on your side as a diner.

                          1. re: maria lorraine

                            You've obviously never lived or dined in TO in the summer if you think that the Health Department interprets the law as you assume they interpret it.

                            Have you walked by Baton Rouge in the Eaton Centre, for example? "Garage door" windows that open right onto the street, where passers-by can reach in and take food off your table. I've done it to friends all the time when I run into them, and they do it right back to me. And, no, this IS NOT a patio.

                            How about the Greek restos on Danforth or any of the three Chinatowns? Lots of open, unscreened doors. Same in Little India.

                            1. re: mclaugh

                              Not proposing that any resto close windows. But if you get a fly in your beautiiful crab corn chowder even so, you do not have to fish out the fly -- you can simply ask for a replacement.

                      2. Hello, I saw this thread title several days ago but apparently misparsed
                        the subject matter ... I thought it had something to do with wine on airplanes
                        [fly -> flight] and didnt bother to read it. Anyway, I eventually happened to
                        expand it and read it with some interest ... and ended up discussing
                        it with some law profs ... in an odd coincidence, including one from UToronto
                        law school ...

                        Some discussion at:

                        Maria Lorraine: interesting perspective. your "domain specfic" knowledge
                        quite valuable.

                        ok tnx.


                        #disclaimer: I am not affiliated with that blog. I was asked to post my email
                        that got the discussion rolling.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: psb

                          Interesting, psb. I remember your posting earlier on the Pearl Oyster Bay lawsuit re: resto competition and intellectual property on this CH thread:

                          The Toronto Health Department has said that about 40% of restos in the area around Habitat have this front open wall/garage door physical set-up. Such a set-up contributes to the charm and sidewalk culture appeal of the neighborhood, even though it may be illegal in terms of flying bugs. With that set-up, the resto certainly has to make amends for bugs in food/beverages, but the alert customer, as said above, does make handy use of a coaster.