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4 More London Hotels With Minimum Spend Drinks Policies

August 5, 2014 at 9:58 AM | by | ()

The minimum spend warning at the Langham

When we recounted the horrifying story of the guest who was charged $127 for three small bottles of water at the Wellesley Hotel last week, we said that was the first we’d heard of any hotel doing this, and that it was a first in London.

Sorry guys, on so many levels. Because it turns out we were wrong.

An article in the Times this weekend about minimum spends in London namechecked the Dorchester, the Ritz, the Savoy, and – gasp – perennial HC fave the Langham as all having minimum spend policies in place, at least some of the time. Here’s the rundown on each:

· You’d think finding a seat at the Dorchester wouldn’t be an issue since the boycott, but apparently it is, because after 6pm there's a minimum spend of £30 per head at the Promenade restaurant, and £20 at the bar (live jazz starts at 7.30pm). Not much of an issue if you’re planning to eat – the cheapest thing on the menu is soup for £12, and a cheeseburger costs £29 – or have a couple of drinks, but this isn’t the place for one quick post-work drink (cocktails start at £16). There is no mention of this policy on the Dorchester’s website, so clearly this needs to change; but the hotel says that it is "explained at reservation and to walk-in guests before they sit down". In the meantime, if you're just after a quick snifter, we suggest sister (and neighbor) property 45 Park Lane, where we’ve gone for just one drink on several occasions.

· Over at the Ritz, the Rivoli bar has a minimum spend of £15 per head after 5pm. Luckily/unluckily, with the cheapest glass of wine £14, and cocktails from £19, this is not going to be a problem once you've sat down. There’s no mention of this policy on the website, though there is if you download the menu, and according to this TripAdvisor review from 2012, you’re also told on arrival.

· The Langham has a minimum spend of £44 per head (the price of the cheapest afternoon tea) in Palm Court (the tea room) on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 1pm and 7pm. It’s clearly noted on the website, and it also pops up when you go to book a table (see main picture - though it says £40 here), but this really surprises us, as the Langham is our go-to choice for laidback, non-stuffy, non-hard-sell jaunts. We’ve had just one coffee there several times, and we’ve even gone to Palm Court to share three afternoon teas between a group of six, and nobody batted an eyelid. Guess we’ve never been on a weekend. Artesian, the bar, though, does not operate a minimum spend, so go there if you just want one thing.

· Things get interesting over at the Savoy. The Times article mentions a cover charge of £10 to drink in its Beaufort Bar on a Dinner Dance evening, which seems legit, since it’s more of an event. This is mentioned on the hotel website - but the website also states that “Please note that reservations are subject to a minimum spend.” However, when we called the Savoy to check today, we were told that “the minimum spend doesn’t apply anymore.” We asked since when, and were told, somewhat embarrassedly, that they weren’t sure, but that that policy is no longer in place, but they haven’t updated the website yet. Could this be the beginning of an anti-minimum spend fightback? Could they have cancelled it last week in the wake of the Wellesley story? Here’s hoping, though in fairness we’ve drunk at the Beaufort Bar many times without being told of a minimum spend (maybe because we were clearly going to hit it?). We’ve also hit up the American Bar in the Savoy for a single cup of tea on multiple occasions, and they’ve even given us extra homemade biscuits. We wouldn’t have had the Savoy down as the bad guys on this topic.

Meanwhile, over at the Wellesley this week, they have a Saudi guest who’s parked his £150,000 gold-plated Range Rover outside the hotel. No wonder they were so contemptuous in their Twitter response to the $127 water. This place is not for the likes of us.

[Screenshot: Julia Buckley for HotelChatter]

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