Dear PoPville – What is the correct policy for handling near fist-fights in restaurants?


Photo by flickr user MShades

Dear PoPville,

Basically, I have a question about what is the correct policy for handling near fist-fights in restaurants. Should you just separate the patrons and allow things to go on and hope it doesn’t break out again? Or should restaurant managers identify the person who “started it” and eject them?

Here’s why I ask:

My friend and I went to a restaurant downtown for drinks after the White House tour on Wednesday. We were heading in, and there was this man and his family in line to be seated for dinner. Since we were just getting drinks, the guy in front of us asked this man (who had a baby in his arms, it should be noted) if we could just squeeze past into the bar. He told us no. We told him that we weren’t trying to cut in line or anything, and he said no again, we could wait. I asked why, and like any standard lunatic (but this time holding a baby), he told me that I was a b**** and I wasn’t getting past. Anyways, things escalated to the point where he actually chased the other bar-goer into the bar area and had to be physically restrained from attacking him by other guests. Management or really any restaurant staff was nowhere to be found. Anyways, things calm down, and the man is actually seated! Appalling both my friend and I, and the women who were just waiting behind us an not involved. It must’ve appalled the other guy who was nearly attacked, because he and his friends left immediately.

I went to ask the guy at the host stand why this lunatic was seated after nearly attacking an innocent man and was told that it was a “misunderstanding.” I explained that it really wasn’t, and I felt this guy was pretty dangerous, but apparently he didn’t care. Meanwhile, this lunatic’s wife ran up to the host stand, from the table, to tell me I didn’t know what I was talking about and wasn’t there and that I should leave. Since apparently the restaurant wasn’t going to keep lunatics out of their establishment, my friend and I went somewhere else.

So, anyways, what is the deal here? I called the restaurant twice now to express my concern with how they handled this. The manager just tells me that it was a “misunderstanding,” and that they followed their policy of “separating” parties when fights break out and that it was fine. But it really wasn’t. I was legitimately scared that I would be beat up for the first time in my life. Am I insane for thinking this was handled poorly? Or should the restaurant change their policy?

44 Comment

  • How is it any of your business how the restaurant handles it? If you don’t like it, don’t go there. Maybe there was something you didn’t see – maybe the guy was going through something very difficult to manage and he snapped for a second. Stop meddling. Get a life.

    • I’m ashamed of the comments on this thread. How is it any of the person’s business how the restaurant handles this? They were verbally and physically threatened- their safety is certainly their business. Call me crazy, any place that doesn’t throw such a person out will not get my business.

  • Sounds like a bunch of people with sticks up their *&^. I’d say the establishment handled it just fine, no one was hurt, just a-holes and ruffled feathers galore. I feel bad for that baby though.

  • Sorry, but contrary to the first two posters, I’m more inclined to NOT side with a guy using profanity in front of children. He could have all the excuses in the world for being a crazy man, but that is not acceptable, adult behavior in the civilized world. But seriously, name the restaurant. What is the correct policy for handling a would-be fist fight? To never go to a restaurant where people who start fist fights in restaurants would venture.

    • Seriously. Why are people siding with the crazy guy? I can understand it if a restaurant separated two people who were provoking each other and about to get into a fight, but from what the OP indicates, the guy in this case was unilaterally attacking people verbally and almost physically without any provocation. Like the poster above, I’d also be interested in knowing which restaurant this was.

  • The guy was obviously a prick, but I don’t see the need to go crying to the staff about it. Either give the guy a slap or forget about it.

    • +1 – handle your own business. But don’t initiate violence.

      • This kind of things happens all the time, all over town every day. The world is full of pricks. I am sorry some random guy was a prick to you, but it isn’t the restaurants responsibility to be the nice police. Their goal is to keep shenanigans to a minimum. You, as any patron can, can decide you want to patronize a place or not. You chose not to, which was the good decision, and that was it. What exactly do you want?

  • What do you want the restaurant to do at this point? Are you seeking restitution? Or you want a manager to prostrate himself before you with apologies?

  • My bet this is Old Ebbitt or perhaps the Hamilton. Small chance it could be Founding Farmers.

    • Agreed, this sounds like Old Ebbitt…when there is a wait there and everyone is standing in the foyer area by the host stand, it’s nearly impossible to get to the bar area.

      That being said, while there’s no excuse for the way the guy acted, continuing to badger the host and calling the restaurant multiple times to complain sounds a bit excessive. No one was hurt.

  • Eat somewhere else. And just…let…it…go….

  • What should a restaurant do in this instance? Everything to keep this situation from escalating. Since you kind of “yadda-yadded” it from the B**** to him chasing you into the bar I can’t pass judgement on the situation. But since no fists were thrown I can say that restaurant may have been successful in minimizing the conflict.
    With holiday stress we all need to breathe. When you asked to get by and he said no – you should have smiled and said okay, and then looked at the maître d and let him/her know that you will take your seat at the bar and let him/her handle the traffic pattern.
    Never mud wrestle with a pig – you will both get muddy but the only difference is the pig likes it.

  • restaurants want money. surprise, surprise.

  • If this person was physically assaulting you or any other restaurant guest, IMO, the police should have been called. I would think the restaurant would have the common sense to do the same thing just to avoid any liability.

  • I think the correct policy is to let the restaurant handle it and if you’re not comfortable with that then you go somewhere else.

  • I feel really bad for that baby who has to grow up with such an a-hole for a father.

  • I learned a lesson from a coworker many years ago:

    He had a professional government position. He was at a country club and saw his ex-girlfriend with another guy, and punched him. He was arrested by uniformed police at work, excorted out in front of his colleagues, and he had to pay a large settlement to the guy to get assault and battery charges dropped.

    Although I’ve never had to do this, I decided that if I were ever assaulted in a public, controlled place like a restaurant, I would immediately fall down, go into a fetal position, be totally passive, and later laugh all the way to the bank.

  • This story got posted on the City Paper’s website. They must be pretty bored over there. I wonder what dcist is saying about it.

  • I’m okay with what the restaurant did. After the situation has calmed down, there’s no reason to provoke more, particularly if the guy is a lunatic. If there’s enough danger to call the police, the restaurant should do so. Otherwise, taking action against a lunatic like that isn’t going to do anyone good.

  • Regardless of what happens, ABRA policy for security plans requires that the patrons be separated and then at least one group escorted out, although most security plans on file with ABRA (which become legally binding on the establishment when filed) require that all people involved be removed from the establishment, usually through different exits and at least a few minutes apart.

    If you think they acted inappropriately (and it certainly sounds, from this one-sided post, like they did) then you should email ABRA to tell them about it. They will have an investigator research the incident, see how the establishment handled it, and punish them and the liquor license if they find they did not follow the security plan they have on file.

    I also feel REALLY strongly that you should tell us in the comments which establishment this was. The first commenter, Meg, said “if you don’t like it, don’t go there” – well, I don’t like it, and I’d prefer not to go somewhere that can’t handle scuffles properly, but without the name of the place, I don’t know where not to send my business. So, please tell us.

    • Even if it isn’t the Old Ebbitt Grill, you can probably skip that place anyway. It’s a crappy tourist trap that was good about 40 years ago.

  • “He told us no. We told him that we weren’t trying to cut in line or anything, and he said no again, we could wait. I asked why, and like any standard lunatic (but this time holding a baby), he told me that I was a b**** and I wasn’t getting past. Anyways, things escalated to the point where he actually chased the other bar-goer into the bar area and had to be physically restrained from attacking him by other guests.”

    There is a lot missing here. He went from calling you a name to chasing someone around? Unprovoked?

    • Because these one sided stories are certainly missing all the good details. You know, the one detail where the girl flipped out on the guy with the baby and explained why she was entitled to get to the bar. Clearly there is a “brat complex” here because she wouldn’t let it die and had to go back to the host stand to get the other couple kicked out. She didn’t get her way, so she left and started telling everyone how bad the place is.

  • And this is why I wrote Santa and asked for a taser!

  • I can’t tell you how many times I had people tell me that they weren’t cutting in line, (going to the bathroom, saying hi to a friend, want to check the score) and it turns out that they were.

    This is only one side of the story. The real question is, why couldn’t you just wait in line for your turn?

  • There wasn’t enough space to squeeze past one person on your way to the bar? What were you, in a narrow hallway?

    Why was a guy in front of you asking a question on your behalf for, why didn’t you ask yourself?

    Why did you think you were going to get beaten up when it was the *other* guy who was getting chased?

    How did the guy fight with a baby in his hand?

    Why not just accept that you had to wait after the guy said “no” the first time? What, you thought he’d suddenly change his mind?

  • Seriously. Just let it go. Not your fight.

  • Perhaps the questioner is asking a lot of the restaurant, but is anyone else tired of this happening? I feel like every weekend I’m in a bar or restaurant where some small genuine misunderstanding balloons into a loud, obscenity-ridden argument — and stepped out of my fair share of drunken fist-fights. Can’t we all just calm down and realize that most of went out on the town to have a good time? I’m curious to see where the person in question was dining, because the scene she described sounded pretty similar to some recent nights out in DuPont and U Street. I don’t really care if the restaurant is responsible; I just want a citywide ban on acting a fool.

  • just write a yelp review and be done with it

  • i’m the OP here, and thanks for your comments. i know i should just let it go, but i found it so odd that they seemed to think we should all leave rather than have the crazy person leave. but, anyways, just so you all know, none of your restaurant guesses have been correct. so, just want to clear that up. Old Ebbitt and the Hamilton had nothing to do with it. i don’t want to go rambling the name of the restaurant off, because that’s not totally my style.

    i posted reviews on yelp about it, and that should be enough for now. i just felt like i should see how crazy it was.

    and for the record, i have absolutely no idea what set the guy off to go chasing into the bar with the baby. he just went for it.

    in the end, we all survived and i feel bad for the poor kids.

  • I happened to be in line right before the guy with the baby and saw all of this happen on Wednesday night and I cannot believe that anyone here is siding with the guy with the baby and not the poster! The poster and friends did absolutely nothing to provoke the guy who began using profanity very quickly. I will say that the group he called a B**** to did engage back with him and used some profanity as well, but they were not the ones who started or escalated the event.

    I also was not impressed with how the restaurant handled it and in fact, I was the one who told the host/manager that the fight was occurring and that his action was needed.

    I don’t necessarily fault the restaurant because I think this is not the kind of thing they are used to dealing with, but I absolutely think they should have asked the family to leave after the inappropriate actions of the dad.

  • Anyways is not a word. Thank you.

  • A 10 second google search for “yelp dc lunatic baby” reveals that the restaurant was Chef Geoff’s downtown location. (Sorry OP, I was curious.)

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