OPINION | We love visiting places that exhibit a lack of pretension with a focus on great food, drinks and service and thankfully there are no shortage of places that tick all of these boxes in the cities in which we live or visit. Sometimes, however, we experience something that doesn’t sit right with us, that puts an annoying black mark on an experience that we can’t help but associate with an outing, regardless of how good everything else might have been.
Recently we visited a venue in Melbourne for a drink. It’s a great venue, one that several of the Melbourne City Lane team have visited many times. There were five of us and when we entered the venue the place was heaving. Most of the tables were occupied or reserved, and the bar section was full. We went to the bar and ordered a round of drinks and asked whether we would be able to get a table. The answer was, as we expected, no, and this was fine – we knew this place was going to be busy and that getting a table to dine without a booking likely futile. We’d enjoy our drinks then move elsewhere for a feed.
To the side of the bar section were 3 small tables with four seats on each. One was occupied and the other two were reserved. We sat down at one of the tables and proceeded to enjoy our drinks while sharing conversation. After about five minutes, one of the waitstaff came over to the table and told us that we were’t allowed to sit at the table because it was reserved. We responded that this was fine and that we were only having a drink and would happily vacate the table when the party that had made the booking arrived. Let it be emphasised that this wasn’t the proper dining section of the venue either – it was the bar section. In the vast majority of cases when it comes to casual establishments such as this that’s the end of the story. If there’s an empty table you can use it but if whoever reserved it arrives, you have to move.
We were then told that no, we had to vacate the table then and there, as it was policy not to let anybody sit at a table that was reserved. We got up from the seats and stood around the table (there wasn’t much spare room elsewhere), which unusually was acceptable to the waitperson. We weren’t allowed to sit on the seats and use the table but standing over the table was OK. About half an hour passed, we finished our drinks and left the venue, with our empty glasses on the table (the party who had reserved the table still hadn’t arrived). One of the waitstaff collected the empty glasses and wiped down the table – a few seconds of work and the table was ready again.
What do you think a venue’s policy should be for tables, not in the proper dining section of a venue, that are reserved but unoccupied?