HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Feb 2, 2014 09:09 AM

We were kicked out of a restaurant because.....

I brought in my own coffee cup. I was told that it was a liquor control law, and I searched the WA state RCW's and as far as a coffee cup (with the dregs of my coffee within), I have been unsuccessful in getting an answer. Granted, the tackiness of bringing in my own cup is not appropriate (but I like a taller cup for more coffee), so I take responsibility for my actions. Were it not for being told that I was being "monitored with a camera above you" for my actions, this might not be an issue. There is an open container law for alcohol, but does this also include a cup brought in from outside the restaurant?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. "I like a taller cup for more coffee". Similarly, if you prefer to drink your margaritas out of a bird bath, I doubt they would have allowed you to bring one in.

    51 Replies
    1. re: Veggo

      Except that coffee comes with free refills (essentially it's "all you can drink") so the size of the cup is irrelevant.

      1. re: carolinadawg

        That is not always true, and we not know if that is the case here.

        1. re: Veggo

          I've never been in a sit down restaurant, which the OP certainly seems to be describing, that didn't offer free refills of coffee. Perhaps one exists, but that hardly validates your point.

          1. re: carolinadawg

            There are many restaurants that do not offer free refills of coffee, not even the fancy stuff like espresso or cappuccino.

                  1. re: carolinadawg

                    I was surprised at the prevalence of non-refilled coffee as well, but having been snookered more than once on saying yes to another cup of coffee and seeing it appear as "Coffee x3" on the bill I've come to realize that restaurants have started to use the "bottled water" trick on coffee.

                    Thank god for expense accounts.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      Never seen that. Does it exist? Perhaps, if you say so. Is it common? I don't believe so.

                      1. re: carolinadawg

                        Unfortunately it does exist.

                        They do bring you a new cup. Not just a new pour from the same cup.

                        So I guess there's that. But whatever. Live and learn.

                        1. re: carolinadawg

                          They exist. Manhattan. "Free" refills on coffee are hard to come by aside from the sludge at old school diners.

                          1. re: Ttrockwood

                            Apparently, outside of LA and Manhattan, it's extremely rare. I've never seen it. I never said it didn't exist, but it's so rare as to be statistically insignificant.

                            1. re: carolinadawg

                              Add Chicago, SF and DC to your list.

                              Aside from the major metropolitan cities already mentioned here (NYC, LA, SF, Chicago, and DC), yes, you are right. Definitely a statistically insignificant number.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Also the nicer restaurants I've gone to in Boston often haven't had free refils

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  ipse: don't forget boston, many places in orange county, most of the high-end resorts in the US, virtually any place that serves really high-quality coffee brewed well.

                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                    Agreed, wsg. The cities I mentioned were merely the ones I am most familiar with and which I have dined extensively at.

                                    I think the point here isn't so much which cities (or metropolitan areas) have or don't have establishments with single-serve coffees, but rather such establishments are not "statistically insignificant".

                                    1. re: westsidegal

                                      The trend here in N California seems to be to offer a single serving of coffee or a French press pot of coffee
                                      (3-4cup pot ) in fine dining establishments. I am in the camp of individuals who will gladly pay for a second cup of great well brewed high quality coffee myself. It is a thing of beauty IMO.

                                  2. re: carolinadawg

                                    I' ve been in small towns in Illinois and Missouri where you are charged for each cup of coffee.

                                    1. re: wekick

                                      And I have been in small towns in Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin, Nebraska, etc. where refills for coffee/soda/iced tea at restaurants are free 99 percent of the time [and unless it is a high-end coffee shop or super-upscale restaurant] ....

                                      1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                        Yes that is usual but Carolinadawg was saying that they had not seen anyplace that charged for each cup of coffee and it exists in a lot of places, some that are unexpected. It is not just in the big cities.

                                        1. re: wekick

                                          That's right, I haven't personally experienced it. I NEVER said the practice didn't exist. And as hawkeyeui93 points out, refills are free in 99 percent of of non-high end restaurants. THAT is my point. Enough already.

                                          1. re: carolinadawg

                                            I think by saying "perhaps one exists" you open the door for everybody listing the ones they know of.

                                            1. re: wekick

                                              I also said "I never said it didn't exist". Thus, no need to list every known instance.

                        2. re: carolinadawg

                          I'll book the Ipse side of that bet. Many.

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              And many, many, many more don't charge. Its not even arguable.

                        3. re: carolinadawg

                          This is true at many fetch-your-own- soda joints, but that doesn't mean you can bring in a milk bucket.

                          1. re: carolinadawg

                            i've been in many, many, restaurants that do not offer free refills.
                            (basically there is a direct relationship between the quality of the coffee and the likelihood of NO free refills.)

                            1. re: westsidegal

                              you can add baltimore to the "no refill" list. i've been to ethic restaurants (thai, chinese, russian, indian, etc) and sub/pizza joints that charge for each filled cup.

                                1. re: Vidute

                                  I live in Boston and have traveled all over each state in New England, up and down the east coast, and a few western states. Never have I encountered free coffee refills in any type of restaurant.

                                  1. re: Gio

                                    Definitely more of a southern thing, coffee and iced tea refills.

                                    1. re: Veggo

                                      Free Refills are an Upper Midwestern thing [especially soda, normal pot brewed coffee, and unsweet tea].

                                      1. re: Veggo

                                        Yes, but Veggo, several cities in coastal Florida, Georgia, both Carolinas, and all the way North... no free refills. Of course that's just me. Obviously you and others have encountered it. I don't think I could handle an ice tea refill, anyway. Another martini? Oh Yeah.

                                        1. re: Gio

                                          I've been in many of those same locations with free refills. Something else seems to be going on here...

                                      2. re: Gio

                                        I've never encountered non-free coffee refills.

                                        1. re: Gio

                                          While I've certainly seen places w/o free refills in the Boston area, I've also certainly seen places that do have free refills here. It's a mixed bag although largely correlated with quality of place (e.g. breakfast spots tend to be free refills)

                                          1. re: Gio

                                            I've lived in Connecticut almost 60 years, and last time I checked it's one of the 6 New England states.

                                            Except for occasional huge spikes in coffee prices, a refill of one's coffee cup in a non-fast food restaurant is generally free.

                                            BUT>>>>I'm writing about a refill, NOT a refill of a refill and so on. and this refers to plain old American style coffee, no exotocs, expressos, latte's etc.

                                            The only places I've been hit with a refill charge are the $$$$ steakhouses and continental restaurants. The independents, diners, and casual family dining places all seem to refill for free.

                                            BTW>>>>>>>>>>>I also had a home on the Cape and went to law school in Mass. Free coffee refills in Barnstable, Essex, Middlesex and Worcester counties were common,

                                            1. re: bagelman01

                                              Bagelman, I live in Middlesex county, practically live in Essex county during off time. No Free Coffee Refills.

                                              "I'm writing about a refill, NOT a refill of a refill and so on. and this refers to plain old American style coffee, no exotocs, expressos, latte's etc."

                                              We must be talking about very different eating venues.

                                              ETA: I know where Connecticut is. Have spent a lot of time in Madison and Clinton.

                                              1. re: Gio

                                                I represented a client in Middlesex Juvenile Court last week. Had breakfast at Owl Diner in Lowell and was taken to dinner at the Chateau in Andover--had to meet a colleague at MSL.
                                                Was poured refill on my coffee at both places without charge.

                                                I overnighted in Worcester to visit nephew after 2nd day of trial. Dinner at the Sole Proprietor, again coffee refilled at no charge.

                                                Just three random restaurants, all independents and three no charge coffee refills.

                                                1. re: bagelman01

                                                  OK... That's you. I'm me. The twains are not meeting.

                                                  "East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet"

                                    2. re: Veggo

                                      It seems here in Jersey it's almost only diners that still honor the "bottomless" cup of coffee. Most all other sit down restaurants charge by the cup, especially in "fine dining". I'm not sure about moderate or "family" restaurants like TGIF, Applebee's etc.

                                      There are still the good ole' Perkins and I-hops that still give you an individual pot or carafe of coffee.....and will refill them as well.

                                      1. re: Veggo

                                        I'm in Toronto. Many restaurants don't offer free coffee refills. If they do, it's likely an old school diner. Definitely no refills on pop - that's a US thing (although we don't drink pop...)

                                        1. re: roostermom

                                          Many mid-priced restaurants in Montreal offer refills on coffee and soft drinks.

                                          1. re: roostermom

                                            Lots of restaurants in Halifax offer free refills on pop. And coffee. But certainly not all, and I'd put it at 50/50 if I had to guess.

                                            1. re: CanadaGirl

                                              Usually the pop refills are based on the contract between the restaurant chain owner and supplier. The two major bottling companies want to be visible in branded stores.

                                              1. re: Ruthie789

                                                Ive been to a great many restaurants and actually the coffee sucks in most of them.

                                                If I wanted a cup of sweat, I would have asked for it.

                                    3. The original comment has been removed
                                      1. Ok. So then Veggo, if I dump out whatever is left in my own cup and show that it's empty, then what? My spouse thinks that it's a proximity thing: that since Tumwater is so close to the home offices of the Liquor Control Board (thus more opportunity to be visited), that they might be, perhaps, more on their toes? I live in Stanwood, and the chances of a LCB rep visiting a restaurant here I would think are far more remote.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: pamsmall

                                          If they poured their standard coffee pour into your empty but large cup, I see no problem. If state-paid LCB employees are peeking into coffee cups, your state has an administrative problem.

                                        2. I don't understand what coffee has to do with alcohol laws? Makes no sense.

                                          1. Restaurant seems to be worried that someone will sneak in booze in a coffee cup (not unrealistic, IMO). Rather than becoming the "outside cup police," management is playing it safe and banning all outside cups. There are restaurants where I live that ban all outside food and drink, and I suspect they would let empty containers in, either.

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                              Did you mean to say "wouldn't let empty..."?

                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                Pika, part of the magical allure of Mexico is that at my favorite restaurants I can bring my own hand-crafted cocktail, with ingredients not in that building. No problem. I order, eat, and tip well there. Some offer to bring me more ice or lime. Impossible stateside.

                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                  Come on I own several flasks in different sizes for sneaking in booze.

                                                  1. re: MamasCooking

                                                    About 40 years ago I was a waiter in two large Catskill Mountain Hotel resorts while on college breaks. In addition to serving 3 meals a day in the dining room, I had to work three nights a week in the nightclub serving drinks.

                                                    Inevitably, the patrons would order a Planters Punch or Singapore Sling in a tall glass. All night they'd nurse that one drin, while continuing to top it up from their hip flasks. They figured no one saw them do it in the dark.

                                                  2. re: pikawicca

                                                    I worked in a restaurant in Charlotte NC many years ago and we had a table seated that had two large soda cups with straws and lids. The couple were behaving as if they were happily intoxicated. We assumed their cups were filled with booze and asked them to dispose of them. While it was never confirmed what was in the cups, we were pretty certain they wanted to grab a bite to eat and not pay for drinks. Stranger things have happened.

                                                    I've also had folks in the Sunday brunch crowd order their booze in a coffee cup. ;)