Well over half their tables were open, no one was waiting at the door, and there were at least four servers on, most of them just standing around talking. So it didn't seem like they would really miss one chair for someone to sit with three paying customers. We talked it over, and then asked our server if #4 could just pay for my dessert (and then I'd just pay her back once we left). She said no again. So, to avoid further conflict, #4 just ordered a tea.
The third girl with us is the kind of person who is very willing to speak her mind, so she asked our server what she would have done if we were a family of four that had come in, and just one of the family members had decided against having anything. Our server said that she would have accepted that because she wasn't all that picky about enforcing the rule. Which clearly isn't all that true.
So she asked if she could talk to a manager about the policy, since it was clear they didn't need the chair and three of us were paying for items. Not to mention she wouldn't let #4 just pay for someone else's dessert, which would then make her a paying customer.
As it turns out, our server is the manager. She said she was enforcing the policy because she didn't appreciate it when potential gangsters come in off the street and try to take advantage of their services by asking for lemons. This took a moment for us to process, because where the hell did the gangster part come from? I was still in my work clothes (dress pants and shirt), two others had come from a play, so were dressed up as well, and another was the kind who just always dresses up a bit. It's not like we came in covered in blood and bandannas or something.
When we went up to pay, #4 said straight up that she was very offended by the gang accusations. The manager said they'd been having problems with one of the local gangs lately, and she wouldn't be surprised if we were affiliated with them. So after that we took down her name and contact information for their head office and left.
My issue isn't so much with her enforcing store policy, but with the fact that questioning it somehow leads to me being affiliated with a gang.