Friday Question of the Day – What is the Proper Etiquette for sitting at the shared tables in Union Market?


At this point most people agree (as you can tell by the crowds) that Union Market has become a dining destination with new spots continuing to open. I stand by my love for Neopol Savory Smokery. But nevermind debating the food, I wanna talk about the seats. I’m not talking about the regular restaurant seats but the shared seating. What is the etiquette? When I stopped by last weekend there were lots of folks standing around looking for tables and there were lots of people lounging around at tables sipping coffee and/or just reading the paper. Which is cool but there seems to be a seating shortage at least on the weekends. So what do you think is the proper etiquette? Only take a table if you’re actually eating? Or screw it, first come first served and I’m gonna take my time and enjoy? Is there a middle ground?

1309 5th Street, NE

30 Comment

  • Another suggested poll option: if there’s extra space at your table, invite others to join you.

    • Exactly, why not share? Could Popville ask UM management to put up signs encouraging people to be neighborly and share a table if asked?

    • I was going to suggest this as well. It may not work sometimes – if I want to have a conversation with someone else I don’t want a third party sitting at the table – but if you’re sitting by yourself on your computer, you really don’t need the whole table.

    • +1 The chair next to you and table top are not your personal storage space for you coats, bags, etc. Seating is limited, be courteous 🙂

    • This seems the appropriate response.

    • I don’t wait to be invited. When it’s crowded I ask to sit if there’s an empty seat.

  • justinbc

    You should be under no obligation to leave, whether you’re done eating or simply sipping a coffee. That doesn’t mean that it’s not a dick move to sit there blithely ignoring some lady holding a baby anxiously looking around for a seat, but, that’s the thing about free, open seating. Nobody has a “right” to it. If it needed to be policed then I’m sure the market would start putting out sign encouraging patrons to move along. It kind of helps that most things sold by vendors at Union Market can be consumed somewhat easily while standing up.

  • I think there can be a happy medium. I think of it no different than other places I would dine. If I were at a restaurant I would order, eat and enjoy my company for a bit prior to just quickly jetting off as soon as my last bite is swallowed. I also wouldn’t sit at a restaurant table for hours if there were a waiting list of people at the bar and a server trying to turn tables over on a busy Sunday brunch rush. I will say that it is more complicated in winter months at Union Market, as I would certainly give up my table to walk/stand and chat for a bit outside on a nice spring, summer or fall day.

    • Yes, this was my reaction as well. Don’t take too much time, but don’t feel like you have to stand up while chewing your last bite. If you’re just reading the paper with a cup of coffee, let others sit down too. It is probably a bit of a dick move to camp out with a computer during really busy times/weekends.

  • I always welcome people to sit. That’s what great about a community! I love union market. Took me awhile to discover it, it it’s amzing. I wish DC would work to create similar concepts in other neighborhoods. The old warehouse behind the Yes! Organic in Petworth could be a great space. A community focused market where we can all gather!

  • I totally read “Union Market” as “Union Station” and wondered what the hell Neopol Savory Smokery was. 🙂 I’ve only been to Union Market once and sat at the bar at the oyster place. I’m always up for sharing tables at public places.

  • Share if you can. Be considerate of others and try not to dawdle too long, or sit there as long as you darn well please. Unless Union Market comes up with a policy during certain hours, food courts are what they are and will always be.

  • If you can’t find a seat, try going up the stairs at the SE corner of the building to the Dock 5 space (it may not be open if there is an event scheduled for that day/night, but it has some seating and lots of space for kids to run around/folks eating to lounge).

  • um, “Hi, is this seat taken? Mind if I join you?”

  • Wow, I’m kind of impressed by the results so far. Seems really anti-social.

    • Not sure what you’re reading, but I see many folks suggesting saddling up next to strangers. This is the epitome of anti-social behavior.

  • A couple of weekends ago my girlfriend and I were at Union Market and could find no seating at all. We only eventually got a place when Bidwell allowed us to use their outside seating. Meanwhile, families were camped out at tables and never leaving, and one couple was playing Settlers of Catan.

  • I agree generally that if a single person is taking up a four-top, for example, it would be polite to allow 2/3 people to share the table. But what if that single came to Union Market to have their coffee and some alone time, maybe read the paper, and now the 2 new people are chatting and catching up, in close proximity of the single, who can no longer enjoy their alone time. Just a thought.
    As Union Market gets more and more popular, and continues to add vendors, they are going to have to do something about the space issue. Or perhaps, as some have suggested, put up gentle signs encouraging people to share/give up table within a reasonable amount of time.

    • “But what if that single came to Union Market to have their coffee and some alone time, maybe read the paper, and now the 2 new people are chatting and catching up, in close proximity of the single, who can no longer enjoy their alone time. Just a thought.”
      Um, maybe Union Market isn’t the appropriate venue for that type of “alone time,” considering it’s a busy spot. A coffee shop, diner, or the library is probably better suited for that.

  • I’m a lounger, so I may be part of the problem, but I never have an issue just asking people if I can join them if a seat is available (assuming there is no GD kid at the table!). But more constructively, Union Market may want to put in some more communal tables with benches rather than chairs. Generally, the long communal tables communicate shared table space and the benches are a bit less comfy and may deter some from camping out.

  • Thunderdome rules.

  • skj84

    I think Coffee shop etiquette applies to this situation. Be aware of your surroundings. If it’s not busy sit at your own leisure. If there is a crowd be willing to share a table or get up. When I worked in restaurants campers used to drive me crazy. To this day I can’t linger at a table after I paid.

  • Union Market is a shoulder-to-shoulder hellhole on the weekends after 10 am. Don’t go expecting to sit anywhere.

  • I guess I’m one of the villains who takes a table for several hours on the weekend. I usually take my computer and write from about 9:30-1:30. In that time, I spend at least $30 on coffee, coffee again, a sandwich, water, etc. so I don’t feel too guilty about it.

    Or, at least I didn’t until some dude came up to me a few weekends ago and demanded that I leave so he could use my table. He didn’t work there, he was just a patron who had arrived at 1:00 and expected an immediate table to miraculously appear.

    Now I stay longer.

  • Serious question: what makes these “shared tables”? Going to any other mall – and that is to me what this place is: a food mall food court… would anyone sit down at a table with other people sitting at it if this was Pentagon City or Union Station food courts?
    I guess I agree with Taylor St. – “shared tables” to me are always long picnic table style tables with benches. I don’t think of a 2 or 4 top as a “shared table” or a “communal table”.
    And if I needed a seat (which i haven’t as I walk and nosh or my friends and I were at a 4 top), then i would ask… actually, I probably wouldn’t – as sharing a 2/4 top with people I don’t know would not be my cup of tea.

  • I’ll lounge around a coffee shop once in a while, but I’m also observant/considerate, and if I see the place is packed and customers have coffee in hand and no where to sit, I leave. Or limit my stay to a few mins. But it does vex me when I see folks bivouacked with their laptop all afternoon when I’m looking for a seat. That said, I’m glad there aren’t angry signs at most coffee shops/common seating areas asking people to leave once they’re finished with their meal or drink.

  • How about people waiting in line for their food allow people who already have their food to use the tables? “Saving” seats just messes up the flow for everyone.

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