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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Nightmare on Peachtree Street

Here's a holiday nightmare that took place at Livingston. I've eliminated names, but confirmed the identity of the writer. Because of length I have not used the usual gray type we use for quotes:

I just had the worst restaurant experience of my life -- by far. I am furious, and I don't know what to do about it.

We'd made reservations for 7 pm tonight for my sister's birthday at Livingston. My wife, my two-month-old baby, my mother-in-law, my mom, my sister and me. I was so looking forward to it because of what I've read about Livingston.

But it turns out, the Livingston bar was having a very, very VERY loud party for Lady Ga-Ga, who was playing across the street at the Fox. There was one of those vinyl signs for Q-100, as well as a radio van out front -- very unusual for a place like Livingston, but you get the picture. LOUD. Night club, DJ, radio promotions, LOUD.

The thing is it was just as loud in the dining room as in the bar -- I guess they're basically the same room. And I mean LOUD. Like nightclub LOUD. We were on the opposite side of the dining room from the bar, but it was just as loud -- or maybe it was louder because the sound was vibrating off the wall.

We told the waitress we were pretty disappointed, and she gave us one of those meaningless (and therefore insincere-sounding) "well, we really do apologize." That was it. No "please have an appetizer on us." No "would you like to come back another time and we'll be happy to provide you with a free entree." Nothing to say that the restaurant actually was sorry.

I told her that I couldn't believe that was all she could say about something that was utterly inappropriate in a restaurant like this -- that we were expecting a very different experience and had a baby with us. She got the assistant to the assistant manager (or something) to come.

Guess what he said? "I really do apologize." Then he said they really didn't have any control over what was going on in the bar, which immediately struck me as a bit insincere because the bar is part of the restaurant. And I pointed out (gingerly), "Well now it is part of the restaurant isn't it?" and he said "Oh, yes, I suppose it is!" Umm, yeah.

It being Monday night, there weren't that many people in the restaurant. But the bar was packed. So I guess they figured they could abuse the largely out-of-town guests in the restaurants. Unbelievable.

We were determined to block out the sound, but it really couldn't be blocked out. This was LOUUDDDDD!!! I mean like THUMPA-THUMPA-THUMPA bass beat BOOM-BOOM-BOOM, DJ-spurring-them-on-to-"PARTEEE-SOME-MORRRE"-loud. I really was having a hard time focusing on the menu, but my wife saved me from making a decision because she said she thought she needed to take the baby home.Really, that was our only safe option (baby-book guideline: baby shouldn't be in an environment where it's so loud that you have to yell to hear each other).

The waitress came back by and we told her we were leaving. She again gave that insincere "really do apologize" line -- at which point I said: "Y'know, no offense intended, but I'm really sick of hearing everyone apologize. That's pretty meaningless." At which point, she said, "Let me get the assistant manager."

So we're all getting up to go, but before I can get up out of the booth, this guy comes over, and puts his hand on my elbow, which is resting on top of the cushioning in the booth, and introduces himself as Bart, the assistant manager. He yells (he has to yell because the music's so loud): "We really do apologize."

And I say, "Well, couldn't someone have told us that this was happening when we made the reservation?"

And he yells:  "This party was planned for a long time. It was on our website and everything." Of course, we never went to the website, but that's kind of the point: They could have warned us.

Me: "I guess I'm amazed that you haven't offered us anything in return for our troubles."

Him: "Well, I guess we have nothing to talk about" and starts walking off.

At that point, I'm pretty darned perplexed; I certainly didn't say anything to warrant that kind of treatment. I did raise my voice, but that's because one had to raise his voice in this environment.

Me: "What do you mean nothing to talk about? You can't offer us something for our troubles? It's Monday, you've ruined our evening. I've got a baby with us. We have no where else to eat in Midtown, and I would think you'd at least offer us a coupon for a couple of meals on you or something."

And he comes back over and puts his hand on my arm again and starts saying something. But I'm looking at my arm and wondering why the guy is touching me and I say softly after a moment of looking at his hand on my arm: "Could you please not touch me?"

Immediately, he spins around and trots to the hostess, whose nearby yelling, "Call security!"

We were leaving! The guy kept touching me! And because I was uncomfortable with this obviously agitated manager laying his hands on me, when I myself already was furious, he says: "Call security." I guess he thought better of it, because security didn't seem to be coming. But the thing is we were leaving. And what really was unbelievable was he was the one touching me. I hadn't moved.

As I left, I got the manager's name from the hostess and wrote it on a card, and the assistant to the assistant came back up front: I told him that Bart was entering "lawsuit territory" by taking such actions. But when I think about it, it could even fall into the territory of assault under the law. At any rate, my point isn't to get all legalistic about it.

But damn! After they create this horrible situation, the guy then assaults me and then threatens to call security -- as we're perfectly peacefully trying to leave!

We obviously weren't the only people upset. Another couple appeared to leave before eating. And as we left, I saw Bart rushing back and forth between the bar and his waiters, looking very stressed out.

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