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You be the judge: Johns Island restaurant patron not happy when sunlight gets in her eyes

The Royal Tern

People eat at The Royal Tern on Johns Island on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. File/Lauren Petracca/Staff

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.

THE PLAINTIFF

Marianne B.’s Yelp profile identifies her as a resident of Westchester County, north of New York City, but she’s a frequent Kiawah Island visitor. Over the course of her visits, she’s become a loyal fan of Wild Olive. (And if you’re looking to sell an apartment in Brooklyn, there’s a real estate agent she’d like to introduce you to.)

THE DEFENDANT

One of the early signs of Johns Island’s emergence as a full-fledged dining district was the December 2018 opening of The Royal Tern, which describes itself as a “family restaurant and neighborhood eatery.” Online reviewers rave about every aspect of the seafood house, from the high ceilings to the beet salads. Its ample and accessible parking lot is also popular.

THE CLAIM

“No mas,” Marianne B. ruled after her dinner at The Royal Tern, which she says was marred by a blinding glare.

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According to Marianne B., when she complained about the sun in her eyes, her server assured her that everyone in the restaurant was coping with the same problem.

“We were the only one we could see so uncomfortable,” Marianne B. wrote, adding that the “owner came by finally to tell of their journey with ineffective blinds. Really???”

THE DEFENSE

When John and Ben Williams built The Royal Tern, they anticipated sunlight could pose a problem. They purposefully put a screened porch on the left side of the restaurant in hopes of keeping rays from beating down on it all day.

The layout worked well during the restaurant’s first months, which coincided with the depths of winter. But as the days grew longer, they realized their window scheme meant customers seated at certain tables in the center of the room were positioned for a direct hit. The brothers put up shutters, but for about 15 minutes each day, the sun still charges into customers’ fields of vision.

“We try to listen to the public as much as we can, but you can’t correct everything 100 percent,” John Williams says. “I guess we could completely black out the windows, but that’s not what we’re looking to do either.”

Williams says his brother was the owner who approached Marianne B. He offered to relocate her to a table in the bar area, but she declined to go: She had her temporarily-blinded eye on a table that was already promised to another party.

“My brother explained the sun would move over shortly, but in the end she wanted nothing to do with my brother or my server and just ignored us,” Williams reports.

THE VERDICT

Who’s right in this situation? Should restaurant owners be held responsible for mitigating natural phenomena beyond their control? Or should restaurant patrons accept that sunlight, heat and insects sometimes figure into dining out in South Carolina? Join the discussion at bit.ly/PCfoodFBgroup.

Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.

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