Please Check Your Coats

An appeal to those who feel they must cling to outer garments throughout dinner

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By David Hammond

Late last year, I offered a number of helpful guidelines for restaurants that wished to make me less grumpy in 2013.

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 …


Thank you.



Reader Comments

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David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 1st, 2013 8:16 AM

Michelle, yes, the plate was the giveaway -- which I don't really have a problem with because so few people knew the dish. I wonder how often coats are stolen from coat check rooms (I check mine all the time and have never had a problem -- maybe I would if I had a nicer coat).

michelle from River Forest  

Posted: February 1st, 2013 6:44 AM

I rarely check my coat, I usually run cold. I am also fond of outerwear, and the thought of someone making off with mine isn't a pleasant thought. One more thing .... I knew it was Fiorenza's, not by the 'dish', but by the 'plate '! Should have written in....

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 26th, 2013 11:04 AM

Etiquette impaired, the kind of place and the person dictate whether I tip. If the person taking my coat is a hostess who is basically at the desk serving customers, I usually tip a buck a coat (or maybe three bucks to cover me, my wife and my hat). If the Manager takes my coat, I usually don't tip as that seems inappropriate for a person of that rank. I'm no Emily Post here; this is just what I do. Employees lower on the pecking order get a tip; management usually doesn't get a tip because, as you say, it seems crass.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: January 25th, 2013 6:49 PM

Really? if someone wants to keep there coat during dinner so what?

Etiquette impaired  

Posted: January 25th, 2013 5:23 PM

I agree but would appreciate some guidance to ease my coat check experience: At the finest places, often there isn't a coat check counter but instead a timely attendent appears an whisks your coat away and back. When there's a counter, there's usually a fish bowl to drop a few bucks in, but when there is only an attendent is one meant to slip a few bucks discreetly with the check token (seems crasse to me) or does one roll it in with a generous table tip & assume the coatcheck person is covered?

Carrie Marling Bankes from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 24th, 2013 4:32 PM

We recently had dinner at a nice spot downtown with a friend who says she never checks her coat unless the coatroom is secure and guarded by an attendant. She explained that one of the things that makes it more pleasant to live in a frigid climate like ours is investing in expensive outwear - the way some women do with shoes - and she doesn't want to risk having someone walk off with her fancy Italian parka. Just offering another explanation, David.

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