Tuesday, June 12, 2012

WTF, Waterfront Hotel?!

So, I have some sad news to report: “The Waterfront Caucus” is no more. Well, not by that name, anyway.

By way of background, a bunch of us have convened at the Waterfront Hotel in Fells Point (known as the “WTF” to some) on Monday nights in recent years – initially to hear our favorite local singer, and later to talk politics.    

While the singer left the WTF in January 2011, some of us decided to keep these gatherings going.  We felt that the local political scene would benefit from an organization in which people with significant substantive experience working in politics and government could choose to participate. Moreover, we wanted the group to consist of people still active on the local political stage, and to not necessarily be limited to Republicans. 

Another political roundtable in which I sometimes participate consists mainly of people whose activism dates to the 1980s and 1990s. So, when we discussed forming the “WTF Caucus” last summer – ironically, while dining outdoors at the Waterfront Hotel – I pushed for it to be less formalized and much edgier than these staid gathering, and more a MacLaughlin Group meets Playboy After Dark experience. (No, not THAT kind of experience, BTW. Click the link to get the historical context and, hopefully, the point I’m trying to make).

Among the people who have attended past gatherings:  Joe “The Prince of Darkness” Steffen, National Committeewoman-Elect Nicolee Ambrose, former Delegate Don Murphy, former Baltimore County Chairman Chris Cavey, Baltimore County Councilman David Marks, Senator J. B. Jennings, veteran party activist and Sauerbrey/Harris campaign aide Chevy Weiss, Andy Harris staffer Craig "Leatherface" Chesek, Patch reporter Bryan Sears, rising stars Timb Mantegna and Jessica Fugate, and, of course, your humble narrator: Richard “The Destroyer” Cross.

When we formally launched the WTF Caucus, we relocated to Ropewalk in Federal Hill, but decided to keep the name “Waterfront” as a nod to our origins. We even scheduled some of our meetings at the original venue to maintain ties to our roots.

After last night’s experience, we won’t be doing that anymore.

Yesterday evening, we convened at the Waterfront for our monthly gathering at around 8:30. As the musical act started around 10 PM and additional members of our group arrived, we moved our conversation outside so we could, well, hear our conversation.

All of a sudden, for the first time ever, we were told by a member of the door staff we could not carry our drinks outside. One of the servers subsequently explained that the rules allowed for restaurant staff to carry them for us, but that we could not do it ourselves. Anyway, we complied and the mini-crisis abated.

Then, it quickly returned.

We ordered a salad for one of our guests, who went into the restaurant to order a soft drink. When she tried bringing it to the outside table, she was blocked by the same security staffer. She then approached the bar staff and explained her dilemma – food outside, drink inside – and was told it would be OK if the bouncer carried it outside for her.

Well, clearly no one had told him that, because he refused to do it anyway.

We never ran afoul of this arbitrary rule at the Waterfront before. This time, the friend in question had to power-eat her salad inside so we could go to another establishment – nearby John Stevens Pub which, conveniently, had both outdoor dining and service – and continue our conversation.

If I sound like I’m venting...well, maybe I am.

Over the years my friends and I have directed a lot of business to the Waterfront. Never before have we experienced such oblivious treatment, or witnessed such dysfunctional behavior.

In all fairness, the bouncer in question apologized to my friend when he saw her on the street later, explaining that he was just following WTF rules.   

I can forgive an employee who follows his employer’s rules – questionable and arbitrary those rules may be.  As for not looking out for the reasonable requests of loyal customers – two of whom were elected officials, including a candidate for governor – that’s a bitter pill to swallow.  Ultimately I blame the management for being out of touch and inflexible, not necessarily employees for doing what they thought is doing their job. Of course, in the service industry, serving customers successfully is the only job that matters.

So, the Waterfront Caucus is now the Ropewalk Caucus, and we’re moving these gatherings back to the establishment of that name.  The show will go on…but in a different venue.

Anyway, I hope some of you will join us for our future, non-WTF gatherings. We’re edgy. We’re fun. We're controversial. Maybe we’re even a little fractious at times. But we’re never boring. 


  1. Post your meetings once in a while. Maybe a few readers will show up.

  2. You mean they didn't know who you were?

    How dare they!

  3. I normally find your entries to be dead on. However, you write as if elected officials deserve special treatment. It seems as if you still place them on a bit of a pedestal. As someone who has worked with so many elected officials, i would have thought that you would have seen through that by now.

    Also, i realize that you had a bad time at the Waterfront, but you really need to stop whining. This entry simply diminishes your credibility as one with a level head. I am not defending bad service, but why put such a superficial entry on your blog?

    This also comes off as arrogant. How dare they indeed.

  4. Anon @ 6/17/12 @ 08:02

    Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

    I disagree with your assertion that I was writing "as if elected officials deserve special treatment." Indeed, the point of the blog was that all customers, especially loyal patrons of an establishment like the WTF, deserve reasonable and fair treatment.

    I don't know that being allowed to take a beverage outside so you can consume your meal and your beverage simultaneously qualifies as "special treatment" for anyone. Further, I don't see how wanting to sit in a quiet spot and eat/drink with your friends free of arbitrary limitations at a restaurant you've frequented for years exudes arrogance.

    Most of the attendees at the so-called Ropewalk Caucus are not elected officials, and the fact that we had two of them at this most recent edition is secondary to the larger point: Treating loyal customers in a dysfunctional manner ensures they won't be back - whoever they are.

    As for why I decided to put up this alleged "superficial" entry on my blog, like most people I have my own pet peeves. Near the top of the list: Poor customer service and/or retail inefficiency.

    Every now and then, if such an incident occurs, I may be inclined to use this soap box of a blog of mine to talk about it. Out of about 300 blog entries, I have only done this twice: The blog entry on which you commented, and one describing a frustrating experience I had with the Express Parking shuttle at the airport. I don't think those two incidents together dumb down the analytical postings I try to be known for.

    Lastly, what you consider whining I regard as venting. People who have bad experiences at a restaurant have the right to share them. In my view, "whining" would only come if I harp on this incident in future blog posts - something I have no intention to do.

    Don't worry...I will revert to form in my next posting. But I needed to express my thoughts over this very disappointing incident.

    When someone hands you a plate of shit, it's up to you to decide whether you want to accept it or throw it back in their face.



  5. Richard, I sure didn't think it was whining. Frankly, I thought it was a legitimate beef (as it were) and indicative of the decision making of a place, I now will strive to avoid. Although, from this outsiders p.o.v, it was a little amusing too.
    Which "some" of your readers would you like to come? lol ;-) I just had to comment on that turn of phrase.