March 3, 2021

Start-Up Chronicle: Taking the Bait: Permits, Reservations, Drinking on the Job

Can't a restaurant owner drink at his own bar?Selin SemaanCan’t a restaurant owner drink at his own bar?

Start-Up Chronicle

Getting a restaurant off the ground.

Time to take stock. As always, many of the comments are more entertaining and insightful than the posts. Herein, we respond to the responders of the last month on scuffling for permits, canceling reservations, and drinking on the job.

Having owned my own establishment for 9 years, this question was always on the front of my mind. The sight of an owner who is over indulging at his own bar will cause irreversable PR damage. That being said, customers love to drink with the owner. — bobmartinelli, West Greenwich, RI

mr. martinelli,
This conundrum could drive one to drink.

Yes, smoozing is much easier after a glass or two of decent wine, but wouldn’t this apply to the staff also? Don’t the difficult customers, heat, chaos, etc. that your staff must deal with also seem a little easier with a glass or two? — SirWired, Raleigh, NC

The staff members do not schmooze. They follow 21 steps of service and deliver hot food and work on computers and tabulate money. In an air-conditioned space devoid of chaos. Not well played, Sir.

I have the feeling that your desire to be that guy (drink! chat! and get paid for it!) is the real reason you got in to the restaurant business in the first place. Which is, of course, why us restaurant lifers have given you such a hard time online. — J, Ga.

Dear J,Ga,
Your feelings are just that. I have never had the desire to be that guy. I am not getting paid. And that is not why I opened a restaurant. Lifers will have to find other reasons for the hard time.

The boss has to be clear headed when around, would you want your banker to be impaired during working hours. — jkl, NYC

Could bankers do worse? You should visit Wall Street some day and witness the power lunches. God knows what they imbibe at night.

Emergencies happen at restaurants all the time, and even the chance of slightly delayed response time due to having a drink is simply not worth the risk. Your liability insurer would love to know this information, btw… — Karl, Melrose

Having recently been cross-examined by a phalanx of insurance investigators, I can tell you that the one question no one asked was about my drinking habits. They were more concerned with the habits of the architect and the general contractor.

Comment 15, a wordy defense of drinking on the job that runs counter to the prevailing opinion of commenters and yet was mysteriously highlighted, sounds like it was written by Bruce. Who decides which comments to highlight? — Amy, Nevada

You think I write wordy defenses of my own wordy blog posts? And then highlight them? You are oh for two. Hope you don’t gamble there in Nevada. (Highlights are chosen by the blog’s editor.)

Enforcing a strict rule for your staff while publicly violating it yourself in front of them is a perfect way to earn their dislike. — CDM, Richmond, CA

I have found innumerable ways to earn dislike, but this one can be remedied. No more drinking for me — unless there is a very good reason.

Give those that make reservations and keep them a gift like an extra side or a special dessert creation. — jkl, NYC

OMG. Now we are giving away gustatory door prizes for people who actually keep their reservations? Next thing, free drinks for anyone who washes his hands.

Your story reminds of a quote from Randal in the movie Clerks: “This job would be great if it weren’t for all the customers”…It sounds like the only real problem is that it makes the evening more stressful/uncertain than necessary. — anonimitie, Jacksonville, FL

What nationality is that name? What? Oh. You’re not saying? One hundred last-minute cancellations affect everybody — the waitlisted who were not contacted, the guests who actually showed up, the kitchen, the bottom line, the whole kit and kaboodle.

It seems like this situation would be a great time to use social media–put out on twitter, facebook, etc when you have a cancellation. good luck! –
Josie, St. Pete/NYC

Josie St. Pete,
Thanks. Might give it a go.

Do you think it’s possible that this blog contributes to some of the reluctance people have to help you (mainly the inspector)? — Lizbeth, NY

Good question. For an equally good answer, I refer you to a fellow commenter, Brianvan, NY,NY, who writes:

Lizbeth: The buildings department in Southampton has a duty to provide permits to legal, qualified projects — and not to react to a permit seeker’s maturely-expressed opinions in a newspaper in the process of providing permits. Unless, of course, our small towns are run by immature, petulant, narcissistic adults who only perform their duties when the emotions of the situation suit them.

During the fire drill, were you able to sneak in and cut to the front of the line? — Michael, Washington, DC

That was a fantasy. Never happened. Sorry I didn’t make it clear. Getting caught inside town hall during a fire drill may be punishable by burning at the stake.

Placing the blame for Bruce’s permit problems in Southampton and resultant loss of 50 jobs on pro-regulation liberals would be like placing the blame for a global financial crisis and resultant deep recession on anti-regulation conservatives…oh, wait… — MrB, Chicago

I’ll take care of the sarcasm around here. May I have my name back, now?

From 400 miles away, this smells so much like an atmosphere that ripe with graft. A building inspector that points out that a wall that was already approved is suddenly illegal? Plans that suddenly appear that didn’t exist? General attitude of a Catch-22 runaround? — MikeSlade, Rochester, NY

Joseph Heller lived in East Hampton. I wish he were around to consult.

I was amazed during our store’s construction process the difference that an expediter made. I didn’t want to pay it – seemed like an unnecessary cost, but man, was I wrong about that. — Rebecca, Brooklyn, NY

Welcome to the party. In many communities, a good and fairly priced expediter is as essential as hammer and nails.

Hopefully what Bruce has shared will help other business owners to talk with someone who has done it before, and hire the right people to expedite or complete tasks and manage relationships with third parties … — Chris, Elizabeth NJ

From your keyboard to business owners’ eyes.

It’s naive to think the majority of our local, state, or federal governments will act entrepreneurially because they aren’t entrepreneurs. — chapman

Act entrepreneurially? How about logically or efficiently?

Plan an off season event for locals that some of the beauracrats might attend and enjoy. I’m a resident of a resort area year around and locals can spot locals, and locals get better treatment. — Dan, Washington State

Dear Dan,
I have 33 years that say I’m a local. When a planning board member recently ate at the restaurant, she said, “Had I had known this place would be this nice, I would have been less intransigent.”

Bruce Buschel owns Southfork Kitchen, a restaurant in Bridgehampton, N.Y.

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