Apparently the (outrageous) rule is printed on the menu (though there's no mention of it on the hotel's website). You would hope that such a bizarre rule (the bar is free to sit at, but the terraces of the bar command a minimum spend) would be flagged to every customer by hotel staff - especially if said customers are only ordering one drink of water each. However, Mr Heaton says he never saw a menu, and that nobody, as he ordered those three tiny bottles of water, mentioned the rule. We’ll side with Mr Heaton on this one, since he paid the bill after querying it (not wanting to make a scene in front of his client). If he’d been aware of the rule, presumably he would have a) laughed in the server’s face and gone elsewhere, or, b) ordered some food, or as he suggests, a glass or two of wine, to make that minimum spend (seeing as he is clearly as English as they come, he’d probably have been too embarrassed to leave and gone with this option).
Having queried it and subsequently paid (#verybritishproblems), he emailed a complaint. Also, he tweeted at the hotel:
The Wellesley apologized and promised to look into it, right? Right?
Wrong. They said:
@EdwardHeaton Thanks for letting us know.We will make sure our policy at the Crystal Bar is dazzlingly clear to all in future. All the best.— The Wellesley (@wellesleylondon) July 23, 2014
That contemptuous response, ladies and gentlemen, is why Edward Heaton won’t be going back to the Wellesley any time soon. We’d advise you to do the same.
[Photo: @EdwardHeaton Twitter]
UPDATE: Statement from the Wellesley in full, below. We have asked whether the hotel has ascertained whether or not the menus with the rules were on display, whether Mr Heaton was warned of the minimum charge before being presented with the bill, and whether they have offered any kind of redress. Mr Heaton meanwhile has tweeted that the hotel has not apologised. We'll update again when we hear back.
The Wellesley applies a minimum spend of £25 per person as standard after 4 pm for guests occupying the hotel's cigar terraces where Mr Edward Heaton held his business meeting on 17 July 2014. Guests are made aware of this policy on arrival and the rates are printed on the menus distributed on the terraces. Mr Heaton did not raise concern at the time of his visit but did send an e-mail of complaint the following week. In response, The Wellesley's management team replied on the same day to offer its sincere apologies to Mr Heaton for an experience he deemed less than satisfactory.
With just 36 rooms and suites, The Wellesley's public areas, which include the Cigar Terraces, are much sought after. Housing the largest humidor in Europe and a world class selection of cigars sourced from leading dealers, alongside one of the UK's oldest and most prestigious collections of Cognac, The Wellesley has to place a premium on the space on its two dedicated terraces that are opened daily, to ensure that they can prioritise the space for their guests. In addition to product on offer, The Wellesley has a team of experts trained in the art of selection, cutting and lighting making our terraces one of London's few havens for cigar smokers.
Our guests are so highly valued and offering them exceptional service and an experience to exceed expectations is our number one priority. This is the reason why we have a minimum charge policy in place. There are other areas in The Wellesley where a minimum charge doesn't apply and our team is always pleased to advise of these. If Mr Heaton had chosen to conduct his meeting in any of these other spaces, he would not have encountered the £75 charge.
We asked the hotel whether they had established whether Mr Heaton had seen a menu, and if he had been warned. We also asked whether the hotel had offered any kind of redress. Response:
Re: menus, the servers take out menus and give them to guests once they are seated on the terraces so they would not have been out. We understand that Mr Heaton said they wouldn't be required as they knew they just wanted waters.
It is policy for all guests at The Wellesley who sit on the terraces to be told about the minimum charge policy on arrival.
Finally, if Mr Heaton, or any other guest would have complained at the time and said they weren't made aware of the minimum charge, we could have dealt with it at the time. The Wellesley routinely offer guests, who sit on the terrace and don't make up the minimum charge through drinks, the chance to off set it against food for example, or if they are cigar smokers, they are welcome to take cigars from the humidor to make up the difference.