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Shouldn't the server at a function tell you if the bar is no-host?

I guess the title pretty much says it all. Tonight I went to an educational lecture, hosted by a particular company. I had received an email inviting me to the"free" event. The invitation mentioned a "social hour" starting at six, followed by dinner and the lecture. I go to a few of these every year, and the standard protocol is to offer a choice of several wines (by the glass) or beer or soft drinks along with dinner. When I arrived at the restaurant (an upscale chain, but not one of the most expensive by any stretch of the imagination) our group was in a meeting room towards the back. There was no bar in the room, but several folks had a glass of wine or soda in their hands. A waitress quickly approached me and asked me if I would like a drink. I asked for a glass of red wine, and she said "is the pinot noir ok?" Sure, fine...back to catching up on the gossip with my colleagues. A few minutes later she returned with my wine; no mention was made of cost and I assumed that as is usual at these events the host was paying for the "social hour" as well as dinner.

After dinner (the standard "chicken or fish" choice of entrees) the waitress returned and left a bill at our table. For a minute I thought "oh, dear, does she not know this is a hosted event?" But then I noticed my colleague next to me had also received a bill. When I opened mine to look at it, I realized that it was for the earlier glass of wine. Not only that, but it was an EXPENSIVE glass of wine: $15 . Now, I've seen the wine list at this particular restaurant before, and that's definitely on the high end (if not the highest) of their wines by the glass.

Shouldn't the waitress have politely said something when I entered such as "there is no hosted bar this evening, but I would be happy to get you a drink if you wish"? Or at the very least could she have said "Our house wine is X, or if you prefer we have a nice pinot noir for $15" I might have settled for water if I thought I was paying for it (really didn't want to drink much, but decided since everyone else was I would have a glass). I certainly didn't want to spend 15 (plus tip) on a glass of wine.

Do you think its worth sending an email to the restaurant? It was a little, um, frugal of the host not to pay for the wine...but maybe its against company policy and times ARE rough around here. So shouldn't the restaurant let me know if that's the case?

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    1. a LOT of corporate events no longer include the cost of alcohol because of the spectre of liability. A lot of companies won't even reimburse alcohol on expense reports, even if it was a glass of wine with dinner.

      I would never make the assumption that alcohol was included.

      1. I respectfully disagree with the posters above. Whenever I've been at some sort of corporate event where the meal is free, it is very explicit if the social hour is not. "Cash bar" or the like is stated. It's not like the OP wandered out of the room to somewhere else to ask for a glass of wine. It was offered.

        On the other hand, if it happened to me, I'd be irritated, but I wouldn't cause a fuss about it. But I'd definately be annoyed. And I wouldn't particularly blame the server, more the host for not making it clear.

        10 Replies
        1. re: DGresh

          totally agree with you DG, it's entirely the host's fault for not making it clear either on the invitation or when greeting the OP at the door. The host should have also briefed the servers, in which case a drinks menu could have been provided.
          I also go to corporate events and it has always been clear whether it's just wine or beer, or open bar/cocktails can be requested, or no alcohol will be provided (only once has that happened and the rep told us all immediately). A good host briefs the servers.

          1. re: smartie

            all fault-aiming aside, if you go in with the idea that you'll be buying your own drinks, you'll never be disappointed or surprised.

            1. re: sunshine842

              so should one also go with the assumption that if passed appetizers are offered, that I'll get a bill for those too? It's part of this same 'social hour".

              1. re: DGresh

                No, if you don't order something you are not going to be charged for it.

                1. re: DGresh

                  "so should one also go with the assumption that if passed appetizers are offered, that I'll get a bill for those too? It's part of this same 'social hour"."

                  No, because food at a function like this is not the money maker; the liquor is. I always assume I am paying for liquor at such a function and if I am not sure, when the wait person comes up to me I say something like, "May I run a tab?" This is the cue for the wait person to let me know if I will or will not be paying for drinks. It's always worked for me?

                  1. re: ttoommyy

                    I think that perhaps we attend different sorts of events then. I've *never* been to one of these where if I was expected to pay for *anything* it wasn't made explicit. Usually everything is free, or perhaps you get two "drink tickets" in your "welcome envelope".

                    1. re: DGresh

                      As someone who worked a TON of business functions in recent years, no one uses drink tickets anymore, and about 50% of said functions have a cash bar.

                      The host should have made it clear on the invite or the OP could've simply asked.

                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                        sorry, we run in different crowds. I still see them.

                    2. re: ttoommyy

                      ttoommy...I REALLY LIKE THAT IDEA.. of asking to run a tab... I am just starting to attend these events .. and its seems the events drinks are 20x more expensive than normal.. the original person probally had a server that only knew one kind of wine and went from there

                2. re: smartie

                  I agree it's the host's "fault", at least partially. It's also partially OP's fault for making assumptions. No it's not the server's job to inform about the no host bar.

              2. You should send an email. The server should have gone with your simplest version: our house wine is eight dollars per glass or have a very nice pinot for $15.

                1. I think it's reasonable to send an email. The server handled that very poorly, IMO.

                  If I were the host, I'd have been furious that they were taking drink "orders" that way....