HOUSTON (FOX 26) - FOX 26 is your station for money, and it was brought to our attention that you may not realize that while you’re kicking a few drinks back with your friends, the bar might be hitting your wallet and adding the gratuity they see fit, if they consider you part of a large group.
“I’ve seen it before when you sit down for a meal on the menu gratuity will be added to a group of 6 plus, 8 plus, whatever it is, but I’ve never ever seen it at a bar,“ says Nigel Strike, who has been hitting Houston's bar scene with friends for years.
It was last week, while celebrating a birthday that Strike and his friends started the night off with drinks at the Black Labrador Pub in Montrose, but as each person closed out their bar tab they were slapped with an almost 20 percent gratuity.
“We came individually. We met up here. We arranged to meet here. We didn’t order food. We all sat here. We didn’t have a designated waitress. We’re just ordering from the bar like you would any other pub,” says Strike.
Receipts from that night showed the charge, but no indication of their seven or more group policy. Strike says there were no signs inside, nor on the bar menus, just a mention of it on their food menu. In some cases, he says some left a tip because they hadn’t realized they were already charged.
Strike tells FOX 26, “If you’re getting special service, then you expect to pay an extra gratuity. But up until the point of when you’re going to the bar you leave your tip, but it’s up to you what you leave as a tip, not to be charged the tip.”
It’s happening at other bars in Houston. FOX 26 spoke with others who experienced the same thing, like Crystal Fuentes. “I felt like I didn’t have to give a tip anymore because they were just automatically taking my money,” Fuentes says.
We reached out to the Greater Houston Restaurant Association, and they sent us this statement:
While we are not aware of this practice being implemented widely, each establishment typically handles matters with large parties by their own internal policies. We encourage our restaurant members to be transparent in their communication about fees associated with large groups. Consumers should review their tickets and discuss any questions with staff and managers at the time of their visit in order to get clarity for any questions or concerns.
Now as for the group who went to the Black Labrador, the ones we spoke with got the gratuity refunded. We also spoke with the manager, and he says he will consider adding the gratuity disclosure to his bar menus and place a sign.