There are two sides to every story, including those posted to Yelp and the like. And for those disputes, court is now in session.
The Post and Courier Food section weekly features a complaint that first surfaced online, along with testimonies from the patron and restaurateur.
You, the readers, are the jury. Join us in our Facebook group to weigh in on whether the customer is indeed right, or if the case should be resolved in the restaurant’s favor. Let’s enter the courtroom.
A TripAdvisor user who goes by the handle of Destination39918 (which is not a valid ZIP code, so the numbers could well be a street address or a password beamed out to the world) identifies herself online as “a senior with a 30+ daughter.”
The two apparently had a tremendous time on their trip to Charleston, since Ms. 39918 posted perfect scores for Husk, SNOB and Poogan’s Porch. “Loved everything about this place,” she wrote of the latter.
Hank’s Seafood Restaurant qualifies as a classic on the Charleston food scene. The Ansonborough restaurant opened in 1999 under head chef Frank McMahon, who remains in charge of the kitchen today. The restaurant next month is opening a 2,100-square-foot private event venue, Hank’s Social Hall, separated from the main dining room by a hallway where the bathrooms are located.
In keeping with the high caliber of 39918’s Charleston experience, Hank’s served sweet potato fries that she described as “probably the best I ever had.” And although she didn’t elaborate, the customer had no complaints about Hank's she-crab soup or seafood a la Wando.
What stuck in her craw was the bathroom arrangement. When she visited, men and women were directed to use the same multi-stall bathroom. “It was somewhat off-putting to me that ... a male or female could be in the adjoining stall,” she said.
Remember Hank’s Social Hall? In order to accommodate its construction, the restaurant had to temporarily shut down its men’s room, operations director Brett Huffstetler says.
“We’ve put signs up apologizing for the inconvenience. It’s just one of those tough parts of construction,” says Huffstetler, adding that the only other alternative would have been to close the restaurant for a few months.
Instead, during that time, “We had to move to using one bathroom for all.”
Huffstetler stresses that the stall doors are floor-to-ceiling, providing a measure of privacy. “To make sure everyone felt comfortable,” the main bathroom door was also propped open. Huffstetler says the setup remained compliant with the American with Disabilities Act at all times.
Still, he admits, “It was not ideal for everyone.” The restaurant is planning to revert to a two-bathroom arrangement by mid-December.
Who’s right in this situation? Is it fair for a restaurant to expect its patrons to use a shared bathroom? Or do patrons of different genders deserve dedicated bathrooms of their own? Join the discussion at bit.ly/PCfoodFBgroup.