Sunday, April 3, 2016

I Have Seen the Future...

...and it is not pleasing.  OK, so the same guy who owns Local 360, Bell+Whete and the Crocodile is taking over Mama's.  Personally, I really like Local 360; I'm just not rich enough to eat there regularly.  Plus, I find the place a bit uncomfortable, with the boxy decor and all.  So Bell and Whete has been open for a while now and I thought I'd give it a try for happy hour.

I have to tell you, first off, it's expensive.  I mean, a pint of Hilliard's, a local product, is ten bucks.  For happy hour, they give you a dollar off.  So nine bucks.  That's a lot.  Anyhow, everything else is similarly expensive.  We had four beers between us and it ended up being $41 - and yes, that's with the happy hour discount.  Without it, the total would have been $45.  This was for four ordinary, garden-variety beers.

Perhaps what was most alarming is that we were charged a mandatory 20% gratuity.  I was pretty super displeased about that.  I've heard about places that have a "no tipping" policy, but this seemed the opposite of that.  Yes, the service was fine, but I want it to be my choice how much I tip.  The restaurant shouldn't require me to pony up a certain amount.  I asked the server about the charge and she told me that this is the way that the place complies with the $15/hr. city wage.  The more I think about that, the more ridiculous it seems.  First off, it's expensive.  I know that they're in a new space, paying market-rate rent, but shouldn't the rather high drinks prices go toward the city wage?  Wages are supposed to be built into the food and drinks prices.  You don't treat them as a surcharge.  That just seems like gouging.

I'm not going back to Bell and Whete.  If I want Hilliard's, I'll take a bus to Hilliard's in Ballard.  If I want a great Belgian pub, I'll go to Brouwer's in Fremont.  To me, this is just another place that's too expensive for people who live in the neighborhood to patronize.  And the real sad thing is that this is what Mama's is going to be like when it reopens.  I'm positive that it will be chock full of locally-sourced artisanal fusion.  It will be precious, disappointing and expensive.  And I won't be able to afford it.  But you can be sure that however much your tab is, you'll be paying 20% more because having high prices just isn't enough.

NOTE: I'm very much in favor of the city's $15/hr. wage.  But this is the worst possible way to achieve it.