OK, so we are in the home stretch for getting our liquor license. If all goes well we should have it by the middle to the end of June, which will mark the end of a very difficult year. Yesterday the inspector who is doing the final investigation came in to set an appointment with us and give us a list of things he would need to give his approval. He seems a very nice man is wants to make the rest of the process as painless as possible, which is a nice change of pace.
The number of seats required by law came up and he said we needed to have 25 seats to qualify. "No problem", I said with a big smile on my face, "we have 28." I was pretty proud of this moment because it was us who got the state law changed down to 25; not to mention we have put in a good deal of blood, sweat, and tears getting the restaurant up to the 28 seats we now have.
"Umm, benches don't count", came his reply, "the seats have to be physically countable to 25. You will have to take the benches out and replace them with chairs."
I think I briefly lost consciousness. The world went blurry for a moment and I could have sworn he said benches don't count. "What? Benches don't count?" He had to be joking. Both Jen and I laughed because we thought he was. No, no joke. Looking around the restaurant I quickly counted 7 "seats" that were now un-countable, taking our official seat count down to 21 and leaving us now 4 seats short. I felt like throwing up.
If I had a bomb strapped to my chest at that moment I would have pulled the pin. All I could say was, "You have GOT to be f*cking kidding me!". In retrospect, that isn't exactly what one should say to the person who holds ones destiny in his hands, but as Theresa and Jen have pointed out many times to me, I do have a mild case of turrets syndrome and sometimes I just can't help it. Jen could see I was going to implode and quickly stepped in.
Besides being a darn good chef, Jen has other attributes that make her presence very important in the whole operation. One of these being the ability to pull out things out of her back side in a tight pinch; remind me next you see me to tell you about her great Dover sole save of 2005. Sensing I was about to say something really stupid, she piped in with, "The law says benches don't count as seats, but it doesn't say we can't have a bench, right?"
"Right", said Mr. MLCC inspector.
"So if we can fit in 4 more chairs we can keep the bench?
"No problem", she says.
You see, the bench that runs along the wall is important because it allows us a great deal of flexibility. We can set 4 deuces or push the tables together and make it a table of 14, so when he said we needed to get rid of the bench and replace it with four chairs I was dumbfounded. Sure it solves the official seat count but it screws us on flexibility. Good think Jen stepped in when she did.
So when he left we went to work figuring out how we could fit in four more chairs without cramping the guests. Sure, in most restaurants four extra seats are a cinch to fit in, but let's not forget we aren't most restaurants. Four extra seats is no easy feat for us. After about an hour of trying different ideas we were still 1 chair short. Our solution? Great question. We are going to take one chair, a special chair if you will, and paint on the back in nice lettering, "The Twenty Fifth Chair", and put it at the end of table #2. This chair will never be used, ever. It's only purpose in life it to get us to 25 official seats we need to get our liquor license. Problem solved.
So when you come in around the end of June, or thereafter, and see a chair pushed up to table #2 that is not being used, you'll know why. It's our special chair.