In April, we had a special Friday night show. (We usually only perform on Saturdays.) My best friend flew up from L.A. to perform in it. Her hotel was across the street from Mel's Drive-In on Van Ness, which had a posted closing time of 4:00am on weekends. Since our usual restaurant was well out of the city, the people in my car decided to go to the diner so my friend could go right back to her hotel afterwards.
The five of us got to the diner just after 3:00am. We were seated immediately, and placed our orders with no trouble.
At about 3:25, some more cast members arrived. (We didn't know anyone else was coming, so we couldn't tell the restaurant in advance, as we usually do.) To everyone's surprise, there was now a security guard posted at the door who refused to let them in. "We're closed," he said. I saw them trying to get in, and asked the manager what was going on. His reply: "They can come in and sit with you, but they can't order anything. The kitchen's closed."
Now, here's my thing: it's always been my understanding that a restaurant's posted closing time is when they stop seating. If it were 3:55, I would understand their reluctance. But there were more than 30 minutes to go yet! My friends ended up leaving, since it was obvious they weren't welcome. (FTR: Nobody argued or got upset. We were disappointed, but polite.) I went back to my table.
At 3:45, the waiter came over and told us we "needed" to settle the check immediately, since they were closing the register. I felt like we were being hustled out. (And no, we weren't lingering; we were still eating.)
Don't get me wrong: I used to work in retail and food service, and I fully understand the desire to clean up and get out ASAP once the place closes. But I don't recall any of the places where I worked ever turning a customer away prior to our posted closing time.
It's my feeling that if a restaurant is going to stop seating people that far in advance of closing, then they should either move their posted closing to 3:30, or post a note somewhere that clearly states: "We will stop seating 30 minutes before closing time". That they had to post a guard at the door indicates to me that my friends were not the first people to make the mistake of assuming the restaurant kept seating until 4:00.
I tried writing a letter to corporate, but couldn't find their address. So I wrote to the management of this restaurant. Never heard back.