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So far, the response to these simple requests has been humbling, with many local establishments seemingly falling over themselves to please me.
One of my inarguably reasonable suggestions was that restaurants provide cloak rooms so that patrons might be spared the discomfort of sitting on coats throughout dinner.
The flipside is that sometimes when restaurants do offer to take the coats of their patrons, that eminently reasonable offer is, for inexplicable and unknown reason, rejected.
A few weeks ago, we went to Gather (4539 N. Lincoln), a relatively new and yet warm and inviting space. As walked in the door, our host, Dave Breo, offered to take our coats and hat, adding "Complimentary coat check?"
We of course relinquished our outer wear immediately, relieved that here, at least, civilization seemed present.
Sitting at dinner, though, I was amazed, shocked and appalled when I noticed that, alas, many people decided to retain their coats and leave them draped over their chairs as they might in a high school cafeteria.
I mentioned this to Breo, who said that he actually much preferred people to give up their coats because, he said, "I want the place to look nice when people walk by," and coats over chairs looks a little…trashy. If you're going out to a nice place to eat, there's no longer any reason to wear a jacket and tie, but you might make the effort to help create a dining space that's different than, say, Denny's.
Still, sometimes, people just want to keep their coats close to them.
Breo suggested that some people may have iPhones, wallets, etc., in their coats and so prefer to keep them close by. That's a likely reason, but a bad one: simply take the damn stuff out of your pockets and let the man have your coat.
At dinner, we were seated next to Chicago food writer Amelia Levin and her husband, Harvey. Harvey offered that maybe people feared there might be some hidden cost to allowing their coat to be checked. Again, a reason, but not a good one : Breo told us that the coat check was complimentary, and even if it wasn't, you're going to drop $100 or so for dinner, and you're scared that a few more bucks might break the bank. C'mon, you're being ridiculous.
Of course, maybe people just coming in from the cold may want to keep their wraps around them for a few minutes. "In that case," says Breo, "I go back to them after fifteen minutes or so and ask them if they like me to take their coats away, and sometimes they do."
BUT sometimes they DON'T.
That's just crazy.
So I appeal, earnestly, to those of you who may feel you must cling to your outer garments throughout the meal …
ATTN: CUSTOMERS, PLEASE CHECK YOUR COATS!
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