Eat and run

A Whatsapp from a friendly restaurant owner: 'I have had a terrible experience...' What's all this about? A fire, chef's left in a huff, a staff strike? Nothing so dramatic, but necessitating the owner to appear before a judge, though fortunately without serious consequences. There must be other restaurateurs who have been through a similar trauma, which regrettably appears to be getting more common every day. A new trick to add to the list of dishonest practices for eating and not paying.

This time it was two couples with Eastern European accents who had enjoyed a slap-up meal. Over their coffee they started shouting at other diners and insulting them. If they were drunk they were in perfect control as they achieved their objective. To prevent the situation from spiralling out of control the restaurant owner ejected the four, and obviously did not stop to make sure the bill had been paid. This altercation, with or without justifiable force, ended with the owner being denounced, and having to later appear in court. Unsurprisingly the case was dismissed, but the ordeal was not pleasant. Recently a group of 120 'wedding guests' booked a meal at a restaurant in León and paid a deposit. On the day they spent four hours eating and drinking, then got up to dance. Under the momentarily amused gaze of the staff, the guests formed into a conga line and danced out of the door, never to return.

This practice even has a name in Spanish, 'simpa', although it is not restricted to this country. José Pizarro's London restaurant was the scene of a couple and their two children finishing their meal and leaving without paying. A well-dressed male couple ran up big bills in four City restaurants, but were caught by their DNA. In the States things are made harder for delinquents when they have to give their credit card details on making reservations. It is a great pity that in Spain, one of the few European countries where people are trusted to pay for their food and drink after they have consumed them, such lawless tactics are spreading.