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Anyone else getting rushed out of Blind Lady Alehouse?

  • k
  • kriot Apr 1, 2011 10:18 AM

Last Friday my Wife and I went to BLAH, dinner was fine, pizza, beer, fine. When our beers were not yet even empty and there was still a slice of pizza on the plate, the lady who I guess runs the front of the house came over to us and asked us if we were going to be much longer, because there was a line of people who will be ordering food. This was a bit surprising and really bothered me. Especially since the table is massive and we were only two people on one corner of the table and two other people on the other corner. There was loads of room in between and the other tables all had space as well.

Personally, I think its rude to go around and rush people out. I had to wait to grab a seat, it was no big deal, I assume others can wait as well. I'm not so sure I'd go back now, the food is good, nothing spectacular but I've never even been rushed out of a busy mcdonald's why would anyone do that at a restaurant/bar?

Anyone else been rushed out?

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  1. That's pretty bad, considering you weren't even done yet and it was plain to see. Maybe if you had been sitting there for a while after your table had cleared, but even then... I've been a couple times, and don't remember this kind of treatment, but it's a shame to hear that because I like what they have going.

    1. I'm confused by your post. You write that you were asked if you were going to be seated at the table longer. You were not told to leave. You were not asked to leave. You were asked if you were going to be staying longer. If they didn't tell you that you need to leave, then I don't see how you were being rushed out.

      27 Replies
      1. re: Josh

        "the lady who I guess runs the front of the house came over to us and asked us if we were going to be much longer, because there was a line of people who will be ordering food."

        That's the obvious way of telling someone to leave without actually explicitly saying it. It's easy to read between the lines here.

        1. re: chezwhitey

          So do you think that if they had told her they weren't done, and would be there a while longer, they would have been physically removed from the premises?

          Is it not possible that they were simply being asked if they were leaving soon?

          If they were occupying the end of one of the long tables, and there was a large party that inquired about seating, is it not possible that in order to accommodate this party the woman simply asked their status so she could let the large party know how long they might be waiting?

          Maybe it's sometimes OK to take things at face value.

          1. re: Josh

            No that was a passive aggressive request to hit the road. Don't have to get much more concrete than that. Kroit, I'm curious, how did you respond to the tacky treatment?

            1. re: Island

              i was a bit stunned. All I said was that we'd be around a bit longer, thank you, and went back to chatting about whatever we were chatting about. I wasnt rude, and I didnt take it personal but I could tell that no one else was loving the "treatment" either.

              Honestly, its that far of a stretch to think that a restaurant in SD would pull anything like this. But I've eaten at a lot of places all over the world and aside from someone putting the check on the table early, I dont think any place has ever just come out and ask if i'm "going to be much longer".

              The lady wasnt "mean", I just dont think she knew any better. (which is pretty hard to believe) And as far as other larger parties are concerned, they can just wait like everyone else. Its no big deal, just stand and drink your beer and eventually someone will get up. If i can do it, anybody can.

              1. re: Island

                Not being blessed with the power of clairvoyance, I guess I'm less willing to assume that there was a hidden message there.

                1. re: Josh

                  "Hidden", are you serious? You'd have to be unconscious to not pick up on that vibe!
                  Kroit, I would have been stunned too. Don't know what else I would have done in the moment, but I know I wouldn't return.

              2. re: Josh

                No one here is confusing a threat to eject someone from the restaurant with plain bad manners, except perhaps you. "Is it not possible" that they were simply demonstrating poor customer service?

                1. re: Josh

                  Josh, getting a little defensive about one of your fav places? Seems pretty obivious it was a rude move, kriot should have settled in and grew some roots in that chair.

                  1. re: cstr

                    I don't know if that's how I'd describe it. I've been to BLAH numerous times and never seen any kind of rude treatment meted out to guests. Obviously that doesn't mean it's impossible, but the way the OP worded it, I don't see how it amounts to being rushed out.

                    1. re: Josh

                      If they were fine with them enjoying their beer after dinner, would they have bothered asking "how much longer" they were going to stay? Come on, let's call a spade a spade here, that was totally passive agressive.

                  2. re: Josh

                    I don't see any case where a restaurant should have any interest to know when a party plans to leave the restaurant (especially when they are not even finished). And the way it was worded wasn't even very "hidden". Everything else is simply non existing customer service and unprofessional. And yes I agree with others it sounds you get a bit defensive just because it is one of your favorite places.

                    1. re: honkman

                      I don't see how you can infer that there was a hidden message if you didn't directly hear what was said.

                      I am insistent on this point, not as a supporter of BLAH, because there are things they do that I am not a fan of for sure, but as someone who has often been accused of implying things I didn't mean through people misinterpreting what I say.

                      I would add that if I was sitting at a large table, and someone did ask me if I was going to be leaving soon, I certainly wouldn't be offended. I would be offended if someone insisted I needed to leave. I think there is an important difference there. Guess I'm alone in that opinion.

                      1. re: Josh

                        Josh, it seems to me that unless someone asks you how f-ing much longer you want to stay there, you would be perfectly fine. Stop hiding behind the finger.

                        1. re: 4wino

                          That's pretty much true.

                        2. re: Josh

                          Josh, you are either a really good or terrible poker player.

                          1. re: Josh

                            Like you, I would not be terribly offended by being asked about the length of my stay. I guess their tone and vocal inflection probably would have some part of it but I would assume that they were asking so they could help inform their other patrons of a potential wait. As "rude" as it may seem to the person being asked, it would be far more annoying to someone waiting to keep getting an "I don't know" answer from the employees. Besides, I've asked and been asked many times at Blind Lady and plenty of other places (Hamilton's, Toronado) if I (or the other patron) could have the table upon completion. No big deal.

                            1. re: Josh

                              I agree that nobody but the OP was there but similar to restaurant reviews where also only the reviewer was in the restaurant it shouldn't be too difficult to get some basic information out of the description (or do you believe all restaurant reviews on CH are complete useless and not true) and there is no reason to believe the OP is just making it up. And based on what the OP describes - food still on the table, people waiting for tables, hostess asks how much longer they need - it is really hard to imagine any other reason for the hostess to ask this beside giving a clear sign to the OP that their table is needed and that they should finish their food asap (or do you have any other explanation why the hostess asked the question). And that is, at least for me, one of the biggest missteps in any restaurant. I have much less problems to have a not so good dish on some nights or wrong dishes are brought to the table etc. (shit happens) but a restaurant not even trying to hide that they want you to get you out of the restaurant is just plain wrong.

                              1. re: honkman

                                "it is really hard to imagine any other reason for the hostess to ask this beside giving a clear sign to the OP that their table is needed and that they should finish their food asap"

                                Well, this is where we differ. I can easily imagine other reasons.

                                1. re: Josh

                                  Just curious - which ones ?

                            2. re: honkman

                              (Always good to get a spirited discussion.)

                              Josh, you're right that none of us were there and nuances matter.

                              On the other hand, the OP seems reasonable and distinctly non-crazy.

                              And it would seem that the combination of (1) beer still in the glass and (2) pizza on the plate and (3) not just a simple request of "how much longer will you be" (hard to justify on its own) but also a mention of "the line of people who will be ordering food" (passive-aggressive by definition) means that for 90% of us it's very clearly a rude question and a failure of good customer service.

                        3. re: Josh

                          They were asked to leave - if somebody asks me "if we were going to be much longer, because there was a line of people who will be ordering food" it means that the restaurant wants you to get out now. That's already very unprofessional but it looks like it happen when they hadn;t even finished their dinner.

                          1. re: Josh

                            Josh, I think you're splitting semantic hairs. In asking how much longer they expected to occupy the table, they were, indirectly, being asked to hurry it up and vacate.

                            1. re: Josh

                              No, she did not "explicitly" ask us to leave. However it was still in really poor taste. And it was easy to see her intention was to get us moving.

                              Also, to add more to the story, I did see her ask the people at the other end of our table as well as another couple seated elsewhere. I'm sure she didnt ask them to leave either however nobody looked extremely happy after she asked.

                              Next time maybe, she'll just come around and say "Geeeeesh!!! Arent you done yet!"

                              Anyways, its a bit of a bummer since the atmosphere there is very casual and the beers are great.

                              1. re: kriot

                                This is one of the reasons we dislike dining out on weekend nights.

                                When we go to BLAH, it's usually on a Sunday and we spend all day there (lunch through dinner). We each bring a book, read, and have beer and nibbles.

                                1. re: shouzen

                                  Let me preface this by saying I have never been to BLAH but hope to dine there soon but I'm just curious shouzen that you both bring a book and spend all day from lunch to dinner..is it a coffeehouse too?
                                  Is it super slow on Sunday where that isn't an issue?
                                  From most of the posts here, its seems like its super slammed all the time and I couldn't imagine taking a table for 5+ hours...do you get asked to move it on from the poor customer service chick too?

                                  1. re: Beach Chick

                                    Honestly, it never seems super busy on a Sunday after ~1pm. We've never been asked to move or anything - we just sit at one end of the communal tables near the front.

                              2. re: Josh

                                It would be a sad day when the restaurant biz gets so full of themselves and detached from their own customer that they lose the ability to gauge the emotional impact of their own words. Your rebuttal sounds excessively literal to me.

                                I think what matters most, [unless the OP is extraordinarily prone to being offended :) ], is the feeling that their behavior engenders in their diners regardless of what a literal parsing might otherwise show.

                                ...just Imagining a restaurant whose front of the house is staffed solely by lawyers... Oh what fun!

                                Honestly moves by the front of the house in situations such as this should be left to their most deft and experienced servers, or best not attempted at all.

                              3. I guess that is why I like blue ribbon artisan pizza in Encinitas better. Besides the fact that I live in Encinitas. The place gets crowded, but they really don't try to push you out and the wait staff has been professional. I have been to BLAH a couple of times and I have noticed that vibe. Thanks the pizza is good, I like BRAP pizza better. The beer is good, but with the drive, its not worth it.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: littlestevie

                                  BLAH vs. BRAP (Blue Ribbon Artisan Pizza.) I love it!

                                  Any more?

                                2. If the staff at any restaurant would ask me how much longer I plan on staying, I would immediately pay the bill and walk out and never return. In the case of BLAH, even simpler since the bill is already paid.

                                  1. kriot, did you happen to say anything to the manager on duty when you left. It was a pretty clueless/thoughtless thing to do and, clearly - or you probably won't have posted about it here - you found it rude/troubling/offensive. The hostess really may have simply been trying to assess when the table was going to open up, but her approach didn't work.

                                    No restaurant wants to alienate customers, but they won't know that's happened unless someone tells them. If you didn't say anything, you could still send them a note or e-mail and say "this is what happened to me in your establishment Thursday evening, this is how it made me feel and why it was a problem for me". Whoever is managing the front of the house needs to do some retraining. As has been pointed out, from the customer service stand point, you had a poor experience. No operator wants that to happen.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: DiningDiva

                                      No, I didnt. Which I really should. I know, shame on me. I probably will drop them a note.

                                    2. Isn't this the main problem at BLAH is the pay first and hope someone gets up so you have a place to eat your pizza and drink your beer?

                                      1. No, I've never been rushed out but I guess when I'm there it's usually right during the peak busy time to when it starts slowing down and there isn't as much competition for a table.

                                        That said, I do kind of get annoyed if people are sitting around without actually eating or drinking so while it was rude of her to give you a nudge I'm not all that upset about it.

                                        1. Her intention notwithstanding, I believe her behavior would make the average (and especially upscale diner , save for Josh) diner feel like they've been given the bum's rush.

                                          While we don't know the exact nature and quantity of the attitude served to the OP, I think ANY mention in a restaurant of moving along so they can have the table is similar to ANY mention of ptomaine- (eg: did you have the short ribs? because we've had some reports...) it just shouldn't be done.

                                          And Josh is right, the question could have been innocuous and part of a rushed service and trying to seat a large party.

                                          The call for that would be to secure a two-top, and ask if the table-clogging patrons would be willing to move to the smaller table, and can she refill their beers on the house?

                                          1. I've had the same experience when I was there a month ago. Friendly lady, but she came over and said "Would you like a box for that?" when we were still eating our pizza. Given that they had the standard lines out the door, and people standing along the wall with food numbers in their hands, it was obvious why she was doing that. Otherwise, they'd have a frequently recurring riot on their hands of people who had ordered food 20 minutes earlier and still couldn't find a table. As it was, we had to wait 20 minutes ourselves.

                                            First off, I love the food at Blind Lady. And the beer list is great too. The place is a gem that keeps me returning on a regular basis. But I now know better than to ever go during the popular times of the day.

                                            What I've never been a fan of is their system of ordering. Both for the food line and the beer line. And the table set up in that restaurant (even with the extra room they opened) is an extremely poor use of space (they don't need more tables so much as they need more chairs/stools along the walls for people to sit on), which really isn't managed well at all (hence the lady who probably has to always be rushing people out of their tables).

                                            They should have a house rule of not allowing parties of 5+ during busy times. Every time I go, there is some family with their toddlers and strollers having a birthday party, or some group of 8 friends making it their big bash. That's great for them, but it simply doesn't work at that restaurant. It eats up the space quick and it really hurts the vibe in general when you have a line out the door and a huge group of people taking up tables, and slowly working on party pitchers. As it is, that place ends up having 20-30 people standing around with numbers hoping for a table to open before their food comes.

                                            The other thing they need to do with that place is A) Enable their servers to take drink orders from people at the tables, and B) start cracking the whip on the people behind the bar and the food register, who are faaaaar too slow and let people take faaaaaar too much time choosing their beer and food. Regarding the need for servers, making people who have found a table and gotten their food have to get back up from the table to stand in a 20 minute line is ridiculous. They need servers who can take beer orders from the tables. This would take a big bite out of their lines, and in the end it would get people at the tables out the door faster, because there wouldn't be that big wait that happens when you have to pause eating and jump back in that ridiculous beer line. Otherwise, a 2 top that really only needed 30 minutes in the restaurant is now taking 45-50 minutes in the restaurant from having to wait for table, wait for food, and then re-wait in the line for a second round, thereby holding up the table they're sitting at. As for the people behind the bar, they've always been very friendly, but it's the efficiency which is lacking. For a place with that many customers, they should be moving people along and getting that line down. Take a tip from a place like O'Brien's, where even on a slammed night, the servers at the bar are quick and to the point with customers.

                                            15 Replies
                                            1. re: cookieshoes

                                              I totally agree.

                                              For a place thats been in business for a while, these are amateur mistakes.

                                              1. re: cookieshoes

                                                Two questions:

                                                1. How would you enforce that "house rule" of 5 or less?
                                                2. What is your opinion of Pizza Port?

                                                1. re: Señor Andy

                                                  1. How would you enforce that "house rule" of 5 or less?
                                                  2. What is your opinion of Pizza Port?

                                                  With regards to #1, you'd simply make it a house policy, and have someone on the floor who enforces it, constantly. And by enforcing, I mean, making it so that when people start setting up their big group, you tell them that you can only get a party of 5 per area for the sake of other customers. I saw an entire bicycling team take up one of those long tables once. Come on, now. Another time, I saw that half of the side room was reserved by a private party, which ended up only being 15 people all standing around, slowly nursing beers. But having someone have to monitor it is only addressing the effect, when you should be addressing the cause. So, I'd start by ditching all of the long tables and the benches in the main room in favor of several small 2-3 tops. Because the easiest way to stop people from showing up in groups of 5-8 is to make it so that they wouldn't be tempted to use your place to host their party in the first place (you don't need the business, and parties spend less, not more). And you do that by managing your floor space and seating. Having several long tables and benches in there only helps create the crowding problem. You're going to keep having groups showing up and taking up too much space, which will only keep turning off more of your customers who those parties should be having to share the table space with. If you won't get rid of the long tables, at least get rid of the benches. Unless you have space to burn, which BLAH doesn't, benches absolutely do not work. By having benches, you essentially let whichever group of 6 people wants to take that huge table and make it theirs. A few jackets and purses placed in between people, and a couple of strollers on the side...and now a table that should've held 15 can now only hold 8. Whereas, if you got rid of those benches, and replace them with individual chairs, you can better manage how many people can really fit around those tables, and you allow people to actually be able to sit right next to, or across from, a separate party while still being able to turn their chair towards the people they want to be facing.

                                                  If we're talking drastic changes, I'd get rid of the ramps and all of that oddly-placed railing in the middle of the room. Shift the ramp for ADA purposes to one side of the room, so that you could free up one large contiguous space in the middle, rather than those pockets of long tables and benches. The way it's set up now, the tables are all on the sides of the room, and all the people who are waiting for a table are stuck in the center, which is the opposite of what it should be. So, you end up having all of these people awkwardly standing in a big clump in the middle, staring down the diners waiting for them to leave.

                                                  And since we're talking redesign, I'd make that side room more of a standing room, with shelf/bar counter space built all along the wall and only have several small circular high-top tables and stools in there. Like a beer garden room. Hell, open up that window/wall into an open air large window to get some ventilation in there. You could get more people in there efficiently, take care of the people who only want to drink some beer, make it so that you could actually eat your food standing up, and you'd keep the fire code observed.

                                                  2. Pizza Port is an example of things done right. Even with the crowds, the servers there are on point, so there is never a line that lasts more than a few minutes. Matter of fact, the Pizza Port in OB snagged Michaela, the head bartender from O'Brien's, and that beer line is run perfectly. The turnover is quick because the beer gets served quick and the pizzas come out quick. But, you can't really compare the Pizza Ports to BLAH, because all of the Pizza Ports (even Solana Beach) have much more space than BLAH does.

                                                  1. re: cookieshoes

                                                    Umm, not trying to be a smart-aleck or anything, but it doesn't seem to me that BLAH actually has a problem. The place is usually busy, and seems to be quite popular.

                                                    The oddest thing to me about the few threads on CH griping about BLAH is they almost always express the desire that BLAH be a different kind of business than it is. Obviously they've succeeded in serving the tastes of the clientele who make it a popular spot.

                                                    1. re: Josh

                                                      See, I don't agree that people gripe about the place being a different kind of business than it is. I think the beer and food are excellent. I'm not one of the ones who claims that the pizza isn't as good as Bruno's, nor am I the type to insist that all burger bars must have grassfed beef or they're worthless, or that San Diego must have "x" level of service otherwise it isn't as good as other cities. Restaurants come in all shapes and sizes, and it's the food that comes first. In most cases, I'll put up with most anything if the food delivers. And the menu at BLAH is wonderful. I think it's the logistics of how the restaurant is set-up that keep what is already great from being even better. And yes, the experiences of being "rushed" out of the place, and the poor crowd management is part of that and worth pointing out.

                                                      1. re: cookieshoes

                                                        Wait, wait. Let's be clear, the pizza IS better at Bruno's, but BLAH has better beer.

                                                        That said, if you don't like the experience of going to a particular restaurant, don't go.

                                                        1. re: jmtreg

                                                          Obviously. I still like going. Just not when it's crazy busy.

                                                          Regarding the pizza...can you get an egg and bacon pizza at Bruno's?

                                                          I definitely prefer BLAH's pizzas. Shame they took the potato and asparagus pizza off the menu. That was a beauty to behold.

                                                      2. re: Josh

                                                        krist man. You're totally being a smart alec. Every time someone has a comment you dismiss it like its either with out merit or a total lie.

                                                        Do you work at BLAH or something?

                                                      3. re: cookieshoes

                                                        By putting bouncers on the floor to enforce a seating policy, you are in danger of turning the place into Father's Office in L.A. and alienating many people. People still do flock to the place so go figure. I think BLAH just needs to chill the F out and let people enjoy the booze and pizza. People waited for the seat or came at the right time so just let them enjoy their night out.

                                                        1. re: chezwhitey

                                                          Well, I'd add that patrons in general need to chill the F out, and stop doing the stare-down at people in the tables when they're waiting for the seats. But you can't entirely blame the patrons in a situation like that. That's where the restaurant needs to take up the slack. And there is a difference between a bouncer and a floor manager who manages the seating. However, neither is effective if you still have those food and beer lines running down the middle of the room. Get some servers in there to take drink orders, and set up a decent amount of room for people to chill while they wait for the next table to open up.

                                                          1. re: cookieshoes

                                                            agreed.

                                                        2. re: cookieshoes

                                                          are you serious about the number of guests policy? as if people with friends and families do not have as much right to enjoy good food and drink simply because they are taking up valuable space from people like yourself? how dare i choose to celebrate a birthday with my cousins and nephews! how dare an entire sports team choose to celebrate a victory at the restaurant of their choice, thereby leaving self-important hipster twosomes and foursomes to actually wait to be seated!

                                                          i have spent over 15 years in both the front of the house and back of the house in the foodservice business. some restaurants do not allow parties to make reservations because of the backups large groups can cause, but to not allow large groups to be served *at all* is ludicrous.

                                                          i agree with your observations about the layout and that there should be a different flow to the space. but to put the blame on the diners - well, come on.

                                                          btw last time i was at pizza port in OB you still had to get up and order beer at the bar.

                                                      4. re: cookieshoes

                                                        I would also add that a large part of BLAH's success has to do with its deep community roots. To implement your 5+ suggestion, BLAH would essentially turn its back on the community (i.e. families, groups of friends/neighbors).

                                                        1. re: Señor Andy

                                                          I know plenty of people who frequent BLAH, and who don't live in Normal Heights. And I know people who do come in with their families. But attaching the nostalgia of any place being a "community" restaurant is something really only in the eye of the people who choose to see a place that way. A restaurant is a business. If they run it well, they can still meet the needs of the neighbors, while still meeting the needs of the people who drive 20 minutes to frequent the place.

                                                          But the "community" argument is a funny one. I lived in South Park for years, and when Hamilton's opened in the old Sparky's spot, for the first year the place was great to go to. In fact, I remember walking in there weeks before the opening and seeing how nice and cozy that place was originally intended to be. And after it opened, it was consistently quiet, usually half-empty, and the bartenders were friendly and mellow. Somewhere around the 1 1/2 year mark, the crowds hit and never stopped, and now it's essentially a PB bar for single aspiring hipsters which is packed solid and uncomfortable 7 days a week. I long since stopped going there, as did most of the people I would see there, because that place is now a headache at best, and I'd rather go to any number of other good spots. If Blind Lady stays as crazy packed even during the non-peak hours, I'd stop going there too. Sure, it would be a shame, for me. But holding on to the ideal of the place down the street being part of the "community" as the reason for why I should expect them to cater to my needs as a neighbor is silly. Especially when restaurants have as hard of a time staying open these days as it is.

                                                          1. re: cookieshoes

                                                            I agree that Hamilton's has become almost unendurably crowded, but I would guess the owner of Hamilton's much prefers the volume of business he's doing now to when he first opened.

                                                      5. Too answer your question, I've never been rushed out of BLAH before, but that's just me.

                                                        My suggestion would be to write a note to BLAH management and tell them about the situation. At this point, you can only assume they have no idea about your bad experience and would probably like to hear about it and, quite possibly, make amends.

                                                        A good way to judge an establishment is by how management handles customer service issues.

                                                        1. THe number on reason I don't go there is the noise. The second reason (and it's a very close second) is the adversarial seating/ordering/service.

                                                          I just don't feel like fighting for a table. Not my idea of a way to spend a relaxing evening.

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: Fake Name

                                                            Isn't a fist fight for a table and then someone pushing you out the door, while your chewing your food, relaxing??

                                                            1. re: cstr

                                                              Hard to believe, I know.

                                                              I have my eccentricities.

                                                              1. re: Fake Name

                                                                I was at Parkhouse Eatery the other day with mom. We're having a nice lunch and one of the bus boys comes over and takes my empty plate. I see my mom bristle a bit and I ask her what is up. She is like, "I hate it when they do that,.....its their way of hurrying things up." I told her I totally disagreed. I want my empty plate out of my way so I can relax. I guess perception is everything.

                                                                -----
                                                                Parkhouse Eatery
                                                                4574 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92116

                                                                1. re: ian langdon

                                                                  Yeah- it's called "new yorking" and has become more a standard rather than the service gaffe it actually is. A restaurant with a high standard of service wouldn't dream of picking up one diner's plate until the other's is finished.

                                                                  But remember, I like drive thrus.

                                                          2. Hah, I was expecting this post to be about something else.

                                                            I've never felt rushed by any of the employees there, but the other customers.. Having people stand and STARE at you and hover around your table waiting for you to leave is pretty much all it takes to ruin my dining experience.