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.