It’s ten minutes before closing time and most of the sidework is done.The only thing left is to blow out the candles and put plastic wrap on the ramekins of ketchup. The second hand moves in slow motion as you eagerly wait to run to the front door and lock it barring any more hungry customers from coming in. Only seven more minutes, so you go to the tray of ketchups and wrap it in the plastic and head to the walk-in. That’s when it happens. Someone pokes their head in the door and says, “Are y’all still open?” Goddamnit!
My brother told me a story last week about how he went to a restaurant with his wife and kids and their friend with his kid. They weren’t sure if the place was open so Little Bro went inside and asked. The bartender said yes, so he went out to get the brood. Once inside, he realized that they were closing in ten minutes. “Oh, I’m sorry. Are you sure it’s alright?” The hostess answered like this: “No, it’s okay…I mean you can stay…if you want to..I mean we are closing in a few minutes but if you really wanna stay I guess you can.” My brother is cool and went elsewhere. He knew that no waiter wants to be stuck at work after close serving three kids. Who the hell wants to eat in a restaurant being the only ones there while knowing that the whole crew is waiting for you to eat and get the fuck out? Turns out, plenty of people. I get it. If we close at 10:00 then it shout be perfectly alright if someone wants to come in at 9:59, but it sucks. No other job is like that. If you are a secretary (sorry, administrative assistant) who gets off work at 5:00, you leave at 5:00, right? What happens if the phone rings at 4:58 and they need you to look up the minutes for a meeting that happened in 1998 and they need copies of it in triplicate? You say, “I will take care of that first thing in the morning” and punch your ass out at 5:00. But in a restaurant, that same secretary can show up at 9:58 and order a well done steak after two apps and keep me at work for an extra hour and half.
Many years ago, while in Las Vegas with friends, we needed a place to eat. We saw a restaurant that looked cool but it was about ten minutes until 11:00 and we didn’t know how late they were serving. My friend David ran up to the hostess and asked if they were open. She gave the obligatory “We’ll, we are open until 11:00, so…” David turned to us with a big thumbs up and yelled, “Come on! They’re still open!” The three of us walked into the restaurant and I asked the hostess how late they were open. She looked at her watch and said, “For about 8 more minutes.” Oh, hell no! I dragged us outta there right then and there. David was like, “But they’re open!” David, honey-pie, sweetie-lump, sugar-bear. No. No no no. Not only does it suck for the server, it will suck for us. Our apps would come out in two minutes and then our entree is going to show up one minute after that and God forbid we order dessert. It might come with a side of hot fudge and a hair ball. And as we sit and eat dinner, we are going to watch the busser mop the floor around every table except ours. Not worth it.
Never go into a restaurant if they are closing within twenty minutes. It is just better for all of us. Servers and diners alike. Trust me.