"Shun, Don't Shame": How Hollywood Restaurants Are Treating Disgraced Diners in the #MeToo Era
When a scandal-plagued patron such as Harvey Weinstein or Les Moonves walks into a hot L.A. eatery for his usual table, staff — and other diners — are debating how to treat him.
We still don't know if all these #MeToo offenders are going to try to work in Hollywood again. But they are definitely going to try to eat here again.
So when a Bryan Singer or a Brett Ratner sits at the table next to you, how should you handle it? Maybe a Harvey Weinstein sighting requires a long toss of your napkin and stomping out the door? Does Louis C.K. deserve a strong side-eye before each course? Do you avoid eye contact completely with T.J. Miller for fear that he'll come over and tell you his side of the story?
Two women saw John Lasseter at the Eleven City Diner recently and their reaction, according to both, was a very strong "like, errggh." When Les Moonves ventured back to the Polo Lounge, he was, perhaps unwisely, seated near Kathy Griffin. She asked the waitress to move her by loudly explaining, "I don't like sitting next to rapists." I hope she wasn't also sitting next to the restaurant owner, who's charging $29 for a hummus and pita platter.
But funny and interesting as Griffin is, she's not likely to be asked to pen an etiquette column. So I asked some restaurant owners how they deal with the situation when an alleged sexual predator walks in their doors. "It's not really a problem simply because this is a self-editing process — most alleged offenders are unlikely to come to a place as high-profile as The Tower Bar," says Gabé Doppelt, the maitre d' there. "If they do, until they are convicted, we treat them as we would normally because we are a restaurant, not judge and jury." All the restaurant owners who spoke to me, mostly off the record, were unwilling to kick out offenders, no matter how much they personally felt "like, errggh" about them.
Micah Wexler says his four Wexler's Delis are democratic and meant to serve everyone, no matter what his own opinions are: "This movement of restaurateurs taking themselves a little too seriously and acting like they're changing the world, that we accept this and support that, you have to take a reality check and say, 'We are making food and providing a service.' Let's not get confused and think we're working in the Peace Corps.' " The Peace Corps, of course, also had a #MeToo issue.
Even though the Fairfax location of Jon & Vinny's has become a power breakfast spot for people such as Bob Iger and Jeffrey Katzenberg, co-owner Jon Shook said he hasn't had a #MeToo offender walk in yet. "But we do have a policy where if any customer makes an employee uncomfortable, a manager will step in to interact with the customer," he says.
One other way of handling a horrifying guest is to follow the "shun, don't shame" advice of Daniel Buccino, the director of the Johns Hopkins Civility Initiative. "If somebody calls that you are not comfortable hosting, you may want to say, 'We're fully committed for Saturday evening. And Tuesday evening as well,' " he suggests. And if they do walk in, make it obvious that you're rescinding their former VIP status. "Seat them off to the side or in the back. You're certainly not going to be comping their drinks." If there's one thing we've learned from the #MeToo movement, it's definitely that these guys should not get any drinks. Diners, likewise, shouldn't give them a piece of their mind, but ignore them. Nothing, after all, bothers the formerly important as much as not being noticed.
Mostly Buccino advises that these horrifying men move on to Postmates. "I wish these people had more interest in saving face and would disappear for a while and not put people in the position of deciding how to receive them." Roy Price, the ousted former head of Amazon Studios, has become an art dealer out of a Hong Kong office on the same street as the famous dim sum restaurant Luk Yu. Even there, though, he should have it delivered.
This story first appeared in the July 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.