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Kicked out of a restaurant after (posted online) closing time

  • h

I'm usually pretty sensitive to this but I didn't realize when I made the 8pm reservation that their hours were until 9:30 on Tuesday, and they didn't mention their hours when I made it. It was a regular dinner that I have with a couple of friends and we usually chat a while over dinner. We arrived at 8pm and by the time we finished our food it was just after 10. We paid the bill around 15 minutes later but were still talking when we were approached and told they had closed an hour ago. There were two other tables that I think were told the same thing, we all got up and left within a few minutes (that's what we do in Calgary).

I'm wondering, is it reasonable to expect that they should have said what time they close when I made the reservation? If I had known that they closed within 1.5 hours we would likely have gone somewhere else since we usually spend at least 2 hours (usually more) chatting and catching up. It's always on a weekday so it's not like there are others booked after us. It was a Thai restaurant that I'd been to once before, and I had selected it. The food was better the first time, but it was good. I'm not sure if I'm being unreasonable to be annoyed about getting kicked out and not go back.

I'd be OK with it if it was a long time after we had paid but it was basically less than 20 minutes. I don't know what the other two tables thought. They offered dessert after we had dinner (I think after 9:30) and we ordered some which contributed to the lateness.

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  1. Generally the rule of thumb is the kitchen closes around the posted time and folks are allowed to finish up their meal after that, while some cleaning is happening mostly in the kitchen. But remember, though there is some leeway, at some point they need to finish cleaning for the night which they don't want to do around customers. Plus the staff might be working a split shift which means they may have been around the restaurant for 12 hours or more at that point in the day and may want to go home or at least someplace else. An hour seems like a good amount of leeway in that situation.

    1. When your finished eating and you pay the bill, you leave within a reasonable amount of time....you do not linger. You have nothing to be mad about.

      Restaurants aren't mind readers...they serve food and drink. If something is important to you, you should raise the question.

      1. If it is a mom and pop Thai place (one is down the street from my house, husband serves and wife cooks,) I know they have been working since before opening for lunch. I wouldn't want to keep them late.

        I'm in and out of most Asian places in an hour, and 1.5 hrs is mostly only for KBBQ. 2 hrs and up is for parties or fine dining.

        1. Reservation made for 8pm? I wouldnt expect to be hassled to leave at around 10.15, particularly if you were still eating 15 minutes earlier. Nor would I have expected a place to be closed from around 9.30 - that's mid-evening, surely. .

          18 Replies
          1. re: Harters

            Not in North America, Harters -- that's on the later end for restaurants open mid-week. (I know, right?) Many of the mom-and-pop places around here close at 9 on weeknights, and 10:30-11:00 on the weekends.

            But the OP has no complaint with the restaurant. The hours were posted, so no, they weren't obligated to point it out.

            If the bill wasn't paid until 10:15, and they didn't nudge you out the door until 20 minutes later, it's not like they were giving you the bum's rush. It was over an hour after closing time, and folks want to get home to friends and family.

            No foul here.

            1. re: sunshine842

              Yeah, but.....

              The place appears happy enough to have taken an 8pm reservation, yet it takes them two hours and the diners havnt got to dessert. Restaurants have ways of "moving folks along" without hassle. But, I agree, if the restaurant had intended the diners all leave around 9.30 then they should have applied the "ways" - the fact that they didnt is, in my view, soem evidence of proper hospitality being applied.

              It's something like those places that offer you a reservation on the understanding that it's, say, for a two hour slot. Now, I'm not a great fan of such places as I don't like to feel constrained about how long we take over a meal. However, the obligation is on the restaurant to feed you in that time and it still feel like an enjoyable, hospitable experience, without you feeling rushed.

              1. re: Harters

                It is possible - likely, even - that restaurants assume that those who book late reservations want to take their time and that they know that the last seating will be more leisurely because the tables won't be turned again. That's a good explanation for the fact that your dinner service spanned two hours.

                I am guessing that's why you booked for 8 p.m. Surely you wouldn't have expected to sit at a table for two hours if you'd booked for 7 p.m.?

                However, it doesn't mean that you get to sit there as long as you like. You were already there two hours. If you want to socialize at a restaurant, you have to realize that there are limits to the time you can sit there and you can plan to continue socializing at the home of one of the group or at a bar.

                1. re: Just Visiting

                  I think you may be right. An 8pm reservation is unlikely to be rushed to seat a later customer. But then I'm a big fan of places that tell you you're not going to be rushed - as this statement from a great little place not too far from me:-

                  "Although we are only a small restaurant we will not rush you to finish your meal - in fact your table is yours for the evening. If you are tired of restaurants with table time restrictions, treat yourself to an oasis of calm: relax and enjoy yourselves."

                  Place opens at 6pm and doesnt post a closing time. We've been leaving at 11pm and there's been several tables still enjoying themselves (usually at the coffee and chat stage). It's hospitality personified.

                  1. re: Harters

                    but that's not typical in the US -- it's "here's your food, now head 'em up and move 'em out"

                    Two hours is considered a very leisurely dinner in the US -- and the OP had 2-1/2 until they actually left.

                    (do note that I'm only stating observations, not opinions)

                    1. re: Harters

                      <<Place opens at 6pm and doesnt post a closing time.>>

                      the restaurant that the OP went to, may well have ben open since lunch. in that case, the people working there may well have been at work as early as 8:30 am (for the food delivery and prep work).

                      1. re: westsidegal

                        I work at a big retail place that closes at 9PM. People routinely walk in at 8:59ish and are still wandering around an hour later. Management doesn't want to offend anyone and get on the PA and tell them to get their asses out. I never stay late at a restaurant or retail place past closing time. Have some respect for the employees, many have to go back and open the next day. Plan your day better, or go somewhere else, you are not appreciated by the staff.

                        1. re: James Cristinian

                          To be fair, the original poster did not mean he/she wants to stay pass the closing hour. I think the complaint was that he/she wasn't given noticed of the closing time when the reservation was made, and he/she wasn't given any warning until after the bill was paid:

                          "I'm wondering, is it reasonable to expect that they should have said what time they close when I made the reservation?"

                          "I'd be OK with it if it was a long time after we had paid but it was basically less than 20 minutes."

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Yeah but, in almost all places closing times are posted on the website and/or the door. Have an idea, check it out first, I certainly do, it goes back to respect for the employees. It's kinda like using an Amex card, there are many places that don't use it so I ask first. Inquiring minds want to know, don't be blissfully ignorant.

                2. re: sunshine842

                  um.....in my part of North America 9:30 or 10 is early for a restaurant to close, weekday or not...unless its a mom and pop type place. Of course, our major industry (gaming) is open 24/7 so many people work and eat later in the day.....

                  1. re: janetofreno

                    Okay. We live in different parts of North America ("around here" indicates "where I live"), and extrapolating the behaviors of Reno or Vegas to the rest of the country stretches reality a bit farther than it will actually extend.

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      I think you two are correct. It really depends on the locations.

                      Restaurants in big cities tend to open late. I live in a suburb. Almost every restaurants close around 8 PM in my area (except McDonald. :) ). However, a short drive to Philadelphia, and you will find many restaurants open until 2 or 3 AM.

                      Regardless, even in Philadelphia, there are many restaurants close early at 8 or 9 PM. It is simply their business models. What I am trying to say is that even in large cities, there are restaurants which close early. Consumers should find out the closing hours.

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        And of course you are right. My point was that someone tried to lump all of North America into one mold....implying that the norm in this part of the world is to close early. My point is that there is no norm. "Around here" restaurants often stay open long into the night. Fifty miles from here they may well close early. Nothing to do with the continent or even the state we live in.

                        1. re: janetofreno

                          If they didn't rush you through your meal and gave you an hour after their official time, even offering dessert, they did their job. Sure, they gave you the 8pm reservation, but how were they to know that you'd lollygag and gossip the majority of time and want to further rent their tablespace beyond eating? I'm sure there are some people who could get there at 8pm, eat, and be out of there by 9:30pm or shortly thereafter. It's unreasonable for them to read your mind and know that the 9:30pm closing time would be problematic for the type of dining experience you were looking for. The onus is on you to inquire by phone or internet what their hours are, and either a) make an earlier reservation knowing that when you and these particular friends get together you have a tendency to do more chatting than eating and go at a very leisurely place, or b) find a restaurant with a later closing time to meet your needs.

                          As an aside, in high school and college, my friends and I did this all the time - basically closing down every place we went to as we sat and chatted all night. Looking back on it, I'm not sure how any of us managed to not be murdered in a fit of homicidal rage by the waitstaff. Admittedly, I do still have one or two friends that when we get together we chat and chat for a very long time and the solution we have now is one of three things:
                          1) Pick a chain restaurant with longer hours and tip well,
                          2) Pick a restaurant where maybe the restaurant closes up a tad early but the bar stays open longer and then we move our chatting to the bar, or
                          3) Eat, and then pick up and move the party to a coffee shop or quiet bar that stays open late (though I'm finding it's harder and harder to find late night coffee shops now that I'm not living smack in the middle of five small colleges and one large university).

                          Edited to correct the closing time from 9pm to 9:30, which then strengthens my point, I believe, that there are many who could have gotten there at 8:00 and completed their meal by closing.

                          1. re: amishangst

                            My golf groups in numerous states over the decades would quite often be the last to leave, well lubricated and after wonderful banter and repartee. But we were always careful to notice how many staff we were delaying, and always, at least I think always, rewarded them sufficiently, and then some. All of them. And always in places where we were comfortably acquainted with the staff, never a chain. With a tinge of guilt, I recall, foggily, 3 episodes when the sun was rising and helped enable me to find my car.
                            In fairness, not all golfers are reprobates. But in many areas, either I found them or they found me. And a lot of us could break par, I know that doesn't sound right. Not right, but true.

                        2. re: sunshine842

                          It's not just Vegas or Reno; Nashville, off there in Bible-Belt Tennessee, has multitudes of restaurants serving past midnight on weekdays, later on Fridays and Saturdays. When we moved from that "hick town" to the metropolis that is L.A. County, we were flabbergasted by how difficult it was to find a restaurant serving after 9:00! We found one for after-theatre dining, as it advertised being open until 10:00, then upon arriving learned that 10:00 was when we had to LEAVE, as the kitchen closed at 9:30.

                        3. re: janetofreno

                          Janet, I just checked Campo's website and they close 930 Sun-Wed. and 1000 Thurs-Sat.

                    2. Unacceptable. Posted closing time is when the last order goes to the kitchen. Then the diners have a reasonable period to eat, and you were well within reason. The restaurant's problems getting closed are not your problems,

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: mwhitmore

                        No, posted closing time and food service depends on the restaurant policy.

                        That's why I always ask if I think there will be an issue.

                        1. re: BubblyOne

                          Where I live, closing time means absolute latest we will post an order to the kitchen (usually 9 or 10pm, everyday)
                          This does not indicate that we would ask guests to leave if they are sitting around talking.

                      2. I'll go along with those who say what the restaurant did was reasonable. It does not appear that your meal was rushed, only the post meal hanging out and talking part. The posted closing times are usually "last call" to order times - not "you should now leave" time. A reasonable amount of time should then be given for you to eat your meal without being rushed - this appears to have been the case. As far as how long after eating should you reasonably expect to be able to sit at the table and chat while there are people waiting to go home is the question. Personally, when I think people are waiting for me to finish so they can close up and leave, I don't linger. If we want to continue our conversation, we find a bar that's still open.

                        1. Eight until 10:30 is plenty of time to stay at a restaurant. I just don't see any basis for complaining about it. If you want to hang out late, go to a bar.

                          1. A little over 2 hours on a meal? Is this common for this place or did you all linger before ordering each course? I mean this may show my age, but I would get itchy feet well before then. Especially on a Tuesday night when I have to get up for work the next day.

                            Most bar patrons at the casual Mexican place I managed a while back, rarely stayed more than 30 minutes past last call. And dinners are usually out well before two hours. For instance, if a party walked on at closing or a little after, I would check with the kitchen staff to make sure they hadn't close down. If not, the patron would be seated and usually food was out rather promptly. In the six years managing I've only had to ask one couple to leave at midnight when we closed at 10. Most people eat and leave without prompting because it's a restaurant not someones parlor.

                            1. I might have cut the last minute discussion short as it was after closing. As far as closing times, IMO, if they state that they're open till 930 and I came in at 929, I'd expect to be served.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: treb

                                You might expect it, but you don't always get what you expect. You are taking your chances when you cut it that close.

                                1. re: treb

                                  Unless it was an unusual situtation- like you are starving and nothing else was open, why would you even want to eat at a place when you know chances are good that you will not be getting top-notch food and/or service?

                                  1. re: BubblyOne

                                    This would probably be if I were in an out of town or last minute situation. If the chow and service was lousy, so would be the tip. My pet peeve is that if a place states they're open them ... well, you're open, right! How would you feel if you went to a bank 5 minutes before closing and they said, leave.

                                    1. re: treb

                                      It may be your pet peeve, but it is easily remedied by just asking.

                                      Is your kitchen open until closing?

                                      Banks have nothing to do with this- apples and oranges.

                                      Unless you are applying for a mortgage or trying to open CDs, a regular transaction can be done in 5 minutes or less.

                                      1. re: treb

                                        Now it's five minutes instead of one minute.

                                        1. re: GH1618

                                          Entitlement. I learned early on that I didn't care to eat while the servers are doing sidework, etc.

                                  2. You were there 2 hours, not sure what there is to be upset about.

                                    1. Where I live, Thai and other "ethnic" restos are almost always family owned. The same small handful of people handles everything--lunch prep, lunch, dinner prep, dinner, seating, serving, bussing. It all makes for very long days.

                                      I don't think the resto was "obligated" to tell you their closing time when you made the reserv, and I also think that two hours for a Thai meal (which around here is generally an efficient meal out, not a lingering dining experience) is more than reasonable. I think your expectations are unreasonable in this situation.

                                      1. Were you talking about important things?

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: beevod

                                          Hopefully not. Trivial chat and, more importantly, gossip is what I'd be engaging in with friends .

                                        2. It doesn't seem as if they rushed your experience at all. You are not complaining they required you to pay your check, they either brought it and you accepted it, and paid it, or you requested it.

                                          You could have ordered desert or coffee to sit and chat over, or you could have just sat on the check and not offered to pay it. But once you pay......you are pretty much indicating you are "done", they asked you to wrap it up (as they did others) because they were closed and wanted to get out of there. Just because you are the last table of the night doesn't mean you rented it all night. They want to close and go home.....I honestly don't see a problem.

                                          Even restaurants with liquor licenses have to close and clear the establishment by a certain hour. Just because you want to stay and chat, even with a full drink in front of you doesn't mean you can.

                                          As the old industry saying goes at closing time "Last call.......You don't have to go home, you just can't stay here"

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: jrvedivici

                                            Last time I heard that, I ended up hiding behind the bar with many others as the Fort William police sauntered by. They were teaching this Yank the joys of scotch.

                                            1. re: jrvedivici

                                              Hehe, as a girl that is often at bars past last call, I am all too familiar with the ritual of the bouncer having to ask everyone to leave at the 2 am mark (where I live that is closing time).

                                            2. I think they gave you a reeasonable time, especially since it was a weeknight.

                                              Since they were polite about telling you, it seems they put some thought into it. My brother is notoriously late and my question is always the same as the restaurant's probably was - will it be five more minutes or three more hours? I'm stubborn so I usually bolt after five minutes to prove a point that has never been taken:)

                                              They had no way of knowing. I do hope you had a nice meal with friends, though. Merry Christmas.

                                              1. At this point you were just lingering without food or drink, and they really had no way of knowing how long you intended to do so. The restaurant is closed, the meal is over, it's time to go.

                                                1. I haven't read any other people post, so I am just saying how I view this.

                                                  <I'm wondering, is it reasonable to expect that they should have said what time they close when I made the reservation?>

                                                  I would say no. They close at 9:30, and you made a reservation for 8:00 PM. From their point of view, you have plenty of time to finish eating. Now, if you had reserved for a 9:00 PM table, then it is different. I also feel that it is the customers responsibility to ask/find out the closing hours of the restaurants.

                                                  <I'd be OK with it if it was a long time after we had paid but it was basically less than 20 minutes>

                                                  I am personally ok. That would be me. From the sound of it, you were not rushed during your dining experience, and they let you stay for almost an hour after the closing time. I think this is polite enough.

                                                  1. <I'm wondering, is it reasonable to expect that they should have said what time they close when I made the reservation?>

                                                    I have a sneaking suspicion that had they said when they closed, it would have been construed as rushing you out, and we'd be having a conversation about that instead. 2 hours is more than enough time to have Thai for dinner, unless you're having some sort of multi-course banquet.

                                                    Also, you don't say how they mentioned closing up for the night- was it a polite "Hey, we're shutting down, can we get you anything else?"; "GTFO."; or something in between?

                                                    1. 2+ hours for dinner at a non-fine dining (multi-course) meal seems excessive to me. If i were planning a "catch up" type of gathering, I would make reservations and eat dinner and then mosey to a bar to continue the conversation. Even if I were well within operating hours, I would feel weird occupying a table that long unless I was spending big dough. Maybe it's the former server in me coming out...

                                                      1. in my neck of the woods, many, many, restaurants close at around 9pm.
                                                        almost all of the mom 'n pops and of the ethnic restaurants close at about 9pm.

                                                        1. In general, you weren't being rushed. Perhaps if they had given you an hour after closing instead of 45 minutes, but with the check being paid at 10:15 and you not leaving for another 20 minutes, it seems like both sides ended up with a fair deal. They didn't shoo you out the door the second the check was paid, and you got to stay a tad more than an hour after closing. By the standards of most restaurants I know - at least in the Western US, sounds like a pretty fair shake.