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Michael Mina staff unresponsive to foul-mouthed, loud drunk [moved from SF board]

Two nights ago (I gave this some thought before posting), we endured an evening of foul language, yelling and clapping coming mostly from one of four men siting at the adjacent table at Michael Mina. The staff was very much aware of it. Even the hostess across the room turned around when the boisterous drunk began clapping loudly. The commotion made it difficult at times to carry on a conversation.

After making the best of it most of the evening, we finally complained to the captain. He apologized, we exchanged business cards, and he walked away. No one from the staff intervened or tried to quell the ongoing outbursts. (Michael Mina himself was in the house, visiting guests at a table toward the rear, but he was not aware of the commotion toward the front of the house.)

I've heard plenty of foul and obscene language, but this was clearly not the place to expect such behavior. We tolerated it and made the best of the situation. However, at what point should a fine dining establishment intervene? At what point does a restaurant need to demonstrate concern for its legal exposure if an inebriated patron leaves the restaurant and drives drunk?

I have not heard from the restaurant, and after two days, I doubt that I will. There wasn't even a final gracious apology on the way out when the captain presented my checked coat. I expected better of Michael Mina's staff.

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  1. Sorry to hear about this. I'd consider writing a letter to MM. It seems to more attention...and my guess is the captain tossed your card or handed it someone else. They get a lot.

    p.s. I know it doesn't help but I read an article about drunk patrons (NY Times or Saveur?) a ways back and it described much, much worse...patrons engaging in public sex, patrons defecating in public, etc.

    1. Why didn't you go over to the table yourself and ask the guy to tone it down? :)

      4 Replies
      1. re: john333

        Because he didn't want punched in the face?

        1. re: occula

          That's a good point, if foodlover is a man. On the other hand if foodlover is a lady it might have been safe since most men wouldn't hit a girl.

          1. re: john333

            An excellent point, and I shouldn't have made the assumption. A woman myself, I try to avoid complaining to obnoxious, loud drunks about their behavior because generally it gets me nowhere and I hate being sneered at and cursed. ymmv

        2. re: john333

          Because it's the job of the management of the restaurant, and not that of the patron. And also because the offending party was obviously drunk.

        3. so sorry for the events...totally unacceptable.

          As you did speak with captain with the following:

          1- eat , pay and leave
          2 - tell the captain you are leaving unless you are moved
          3 - ask the captain to tell them to bring down the volume
          4 - call 911

          Me? I would have asked the captain to move us, if that did not work, i would ask for the check for the items we already ate and if we were in the middle of one of the courses, i would not pay for it. pay and leave. I would then follow up with management to describe the events the total lack of intervention by the MOD and see what happens. That will be cathartic and give you an indication of whether management wants a civil or locker room reputation.

          1. Something that can be said of many, many situations in life is that people grossly underestimate the value of at least giving others the perception that they are attempting to deal with said situation.

            I was witness to a similar situation last year, and I can say that had the staff given this impression, mine, of this restaurant, would have been very different. Instead the lout was catered to, given claps on the back, and generally allowed to carry on and get worse and worse, to the point where he nearly careened straight across our table before we left.

            I'm all for everyone having a good time, being a bit boisterous etc. But when it gets to the point that one group is obviously taking over the dining room (or any room), it's time for someone to intervene, fine dining or no.

            1 Reply
            1. re: im_nomad

              I agree so strongly with the first paragraph; in my job, when I can't help someone, I want them at least to feel that I wanted to, wish I could have, or would if I could, you know?

            2. Call me a cynic, but the first question that pops into my mind is whether the loud and boisterous drunk was Michael Mina's brother? I suspect there has to be some reason that the restaurant condoned (by not interceding) the guy's behavior! Godfather of the local mafia? The Cardinal in plain clothes? A known $500.00 tipper? Frank Sinatra reincarnated? There HAS to be a reason!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Caroline1

                Yup. I think the customer was probably a VIP, and the restaurant didn't want to risk offending him.

              2. Why didn't you ask to move to another table, or location in the restaurant?

                1. I think ipsedixit had the right response, but I'm curious, what kind of tip did you leave?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: junescook

                    The tip should've nothing to do with it. It's not the waiter's fault that another patron is not behaving. It's the restaurant management's fault. Why punish the waiter for it?

                  2. I would have beat the loud drunk guy within an inch of his life, that would catch management's attention.

                    1. Remember, if someone is drinking their socks off, the restaurant is making alot more money off of them than you. This might motivate complacency.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: runwestierun

                        I work in a restaurant and there is nothing worse than a drunken table. The unfortunate problem is that once someone is drunk even the person with authority (the management) is often disregarded. The table often gets offended and because they are drunk even if they try they don't tone it down enough. If there is one thing a restaurant doesn't want it's a scene. Now that doesn't mean I'm condoning the choice, it's just what I've seen happen. I still think you should have done what JFood suggested (except calling 911:)

                        1. re: Missmoo

                          Well if restaurants don't like scenes then the 911 will give them a scene they really don't want. My money spends as good as anyone elses but not to the point where I can offend other patrons by obnoxious and disrespectful conduct. And yes as to the poster above Frank Sinatra regularly got arrested for engaging in rowdy behavior in Beverly Hills.

                          1. re: Hughlipton

                            Well, Frank was a different time. Unless the other patron physically threatens you, I don't think 911 is the best use of our emergency system.

                            1. re: Hughlipton

                              That misses the point that first responders and dispatchers don't need to be in the business of settling very minor squabbles in restaurant. The system is over-taxed and first responders are over-worked.

                              No question the restaurant could have and should have handled it better. And I'm surprised that the poster never heard anything back from MM, Inc. That said, "he" is a chain now...

                        2. Thanks for all the responses. I still have immense respect and appreciation for Michael Mina and his culinary talent. Many of you raised some good points about the potential of the adjacent table having a VIP or frequent diner. Besides that, a four top generates more revenue than a two top. I don't know the amount of tip left because I was the guest, and it was a business dinner.

                          The bottom line is that there are places where you might expect a bit of rowdiness (e.g., a sports bar), but there are also places where civility should be expected. The house sets the tone. That's their prerogative.

                          18 Replies
                          1. re: foodlover

                            I still would like to know why you did not ask to move to another table?

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              Not knowing the size and layout of Michael Mina. I have a practical question: Would it have been possible to move to a table where the behavior was out of earshot?

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Ipse, It is not the patron's job to be inconvenienced by a jerk. Why do i have to change my table to accomodate some rude and obnoxious person. I was in a restaurant one night many years ago, married at that time to a Mexican American young lady who was being insulted in Spanish by the gentleman across from our table. Before I could get out of my chair to level this idiot the chef came out and in perfect Spanish told him to leave or he, the chef would throw him out the door. The stiff left. Thank God because I am a devout coward but no one insults my wife. And at this stage of my life nor my daughter.

                                1. re: Hughlipton

                                  In my younger days I invoked what you lawyer folks call the "self-help remedy" and delivered a good old fashioned ass-whippin, 5 as I recall. I miss the old days - spare the rod and spoil the drunkard.

                                  1. re: Hughlipton

                                    Why do i have to change my table to accomodate some rude and obnoxious person.


                                    As Confuscious once said, "The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions."

                                    I'm not saying that the OP should have to accommodate "rude and obnoxious behavior" (assuming that i was indeed rude and obnoxious because such descriptions are always relative).

                                    I am just saying that because according to the OP, the restaurant staff was not able to do anything to her satisfaction with respect to the drunkard, why not choose the next best option? That is, instead of moving the drunk, why not just move away from the drunk?

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      Ipse, you have always been one of my favorite posters and this debate on restaurant etiquette peaks my interest. Thus, let me turn up the heat up on you.

                                      Assume there is only one other table open and there are other people waiting to be seated. Do I have the staff thrown someone else under the bus? Or, assume there are no other acceptable tables to my liking, does that mean I should leave? We have been assuming a restaurant that is capable of being able to move anybody's table at any given moment and that may just not be the case. Parry, thrust, riposte. (last word may be misspelled).

                                      1. re: Hughlipton


                                        Of course there are lots and lots of hypos we can run through. I am just asking -- knowing what little we know from the OP -- that there was perhaps another option that she could have exercised. That is, asking to be moved.

                                        We don't know if the restuarant was too crowded to have an open table, or if it was too small (it's not, I've been there), or whether the OP like her table because of the feng shui.

                                        All I am saying is that it is odd why the OP does not even mention this possibility.

                                        Fair enough?

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          Of course you're right. It's one of the difficulties in commenting on these types of situations. Too little in facts to reach a solid consensus..

                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            I agree that simply asking to be moved to another table, away from the offensiveness, would be the most prudent course of action. One reason for this approach would be the manner in which it reinforces the significance of the disruption to the management. It basically says, "If you are willing to the disruption to my meal, then I think you should also tolerate my disruption to your service."

                                            As to escalating the confrontation, I see no reason to rush into it. First, exhaust all other options. I assure you that a serious, physical engagement is likely to result in a 911 call. It would certainly be understandable if the officers arriving at the scene decided that sorting it out at the station was the best solution. That means handcuffs for all involved. Why chance that? A loud drunk may put a damper on the evening, but a few minutes in a jail cell grinds it to a screaching halt. Then maybe a civil suit . . .

                                        2. re: ipsedixit

                                          By the way, you reminded me of an old saying I learned in philosophy while in College and while reptiles roamed the earth: "He hit my cheek, the blood ran red. I turned the other, now I'm dead.".

                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            ipse , that's a wimp-out. I'll move the drunk. Remember what happens when good men do nothing.

                                              1. re: Hughlipton

                                                Because you know, bar fights aren't at all disruptive to restaurant dining rooms.

                                                1. re: LeoLioness

                                                  I was thinking exactly the same thing.

                                                  1. re: pranksy

                                                    I hope you never run in to the problem. But if yo do I'm sure they will pack up your food for you to take with you when you leave.

                                                  2. re: LeoLioness

                                                    OP mentions he/she was having a business dinner, so even though the primary urge may have been to shriek "Would you shut the fuck up!" may have crossed the mind, it may have been inappropriate. I manage a group of very diverse individuals, and when issues like excessive throat-clearing, body odor or other offenses arise, I tell my people not to confront the other individual; it's the responsibility of management to deal with it. Same with a restaurant and too bad MM didn't address it. A fine restaurant should have a canned response to dealing with drunks. In my younger days, a group of friends and I thought it was highly amusing to knock all our drained margarita glasses off the table at at trendy Manhattan waterhole. The waiter very sweetly told us we could stay as long as we wanted, but we couldn't have any more to drink. Diplomatic, to the point, and we left shortly thereafter. (Probably found a dive that would put up with us, but who remembers?)

                                                    1. re: whs

                                                      Just for drill. Did they charge you for the broken glasses? That would have been my Manhattan experience.

                                                    2. re: LeoLioness

                                                      But there is a wonderful calmness when they are over. And not until. Peace in Montreal, Munich, New Haven, Vail, and Managua.

                                        3. I think that in a place such as MM, they should have said something to the offending patrons. I had something similar happen to me at a restaurant complete with a Playboy Magazine. My efforts to quiet them didn't work. So I went to the bartender to find out who I could speak to about the problem, he directed me to the house manager. He was an older gentleman who spoke very calmly and distinctly and basically told them to put it away and be quiet. They threatened to never return, and he said that that suited him well.

                                          Apparently the whole incident got his ire up, and he returned and told them that he hoped their parents were ashamed to have them as children.

                                          We were comped all of or drinks, including wine. Not that I needed that, it was awesome just to see him put them in their place. They were quite sheepish after that. The house manager apologized for the incident several times and to the entire table (ours).

                                          I thanked the house manager at the time, but I also thanked him the next time I went to the restaurant. For whatever reason he sent us another round of drinks. I think it's to ensure we'll return again and again. Which we have and will do.

                                          The upshot is that the restaurant is there to provide a comfortable atmosphere. That is part of what you're paying for. They should have dealt with the patrons; any house manager or Maitre D' should know exactly how to diffuse unruly patrons, especially in a high end restaurant. That is part of their job, and from I read above they failed.

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: cosmogrrl

                                            The upshot is that the restaurant is there to provide a comfortable atmosphere.

                                            Actually, a restaurant is there to make money.

                                            Providing a comfortable atmosphere or professional service is just an unintended consequence of trying to make money. A means to end, if you will; but certainly not the ends in and of itself.

                                            As some have noted above, perhaps the drunkard was a big spender who is a long-time loyal customer. In the grand scope of things, it would've been more logical (and profitable) to appease the drunkard at the expense of other (less profitable?) customers.

                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              Gosh, I hope not. Because when that is the last customer you have left as a result of having offended so many other diners you are OOB. My father who was in the restaurant business always told me you try to please as many as you can because they return and refer their friends.. Do let's appease Mr. Got Rocks and lose everybody else. I think they would be surely suicidal to the restaurant owner.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                By the way, faollowing my father's advice has helped me over 41 years build a very successful businesss. And when one of my customers thinks there world is more important than anyone elses they are politely and sometimes impolitely asked to go elsewhere.

                                                1. re: Hughlipton

                                                  Thank you for that! I wish it was done more often at the place I work.

                                                2. re: ipsedixit

                                                  Haven't ever set foot in the place,but you've all said it's big --

                                                  So. Let's say 25 tables just to pick a number-- work with me, even if this is just the number of tables in the front room where he was raising a ruckus (comment about MM being in a back room where he couldn't hear)

                                                  No matter how profitable this drunk is, he's going to have to return a LOT and drop a LOT of cash to make up for the lost profit on the night for people who decide to just call it quits instead of lingering over dessert, coffee, and digestifs...AND the intangible lost profit by all the people that they tell about the ruined evening -- how many people who were there will never return, and tell their friends, who will decide to not visit again? There's an old marketing statistic (and research tends to support it) that says that happy people tell three friends, unhappy people tell 10 of their friends...and I expect the latter is now much larger in the age of social networking.

                                                  So to carry on the numbers -- 24 tables with 4 people at each (anywhere from 2 to 6, likely, so we'll pick a number...) -- that turns out to be 960 people (24 x 4 x 10) who hear about a badly handled incident who just might choose to eat somewhere else.

                                                  NO WAY one obnoxious drunk is important enough to risk that.

                                                  Making money means finding a balance between the assholes and the rest of the world...and IMO they pretty badly mishandled this one.

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    Well said! This is true not just in restaurants, but in all types of business. Really, across all aspects of life, I suspect.

                                                    It's one thing to be a pragmatic business person, but it is another thing to let a person's bank account or influence lower the standards of acceptable behavior for everyone else. It might get you somewhere in the short run, but I'll bet not over the long haul.