Wednesday, June 11, 2003

I realize I should probably blog more about Tulip Cafe, since there are so many weird stories that come along with owning a restaurant. Like today, for instance, my partner Luboš and I went to Makro, which is the big wholesale supply store for restaurants and businesses in the Czech Republic, to finally buy some barstools. We got five, if you're interested; I ate lunch sitting right up at the bar today for the first time, and man oh man was it great. Anyway....

In the store, Luboš, who's the manager of the joint, received a series of phone calls. Some guy had called him earlier to reserve the restaurant for 30 people, which is not so unusual. Luboš told him he woudln't be there until the late afternoon and to stop by then, and they'd arrange it. Around noon, while me and Luboš were at the store, the guy showed up at Tulip. The waitress on duty called Luboš on her mobile phone and passed the phone to the stranger. Apparently the stranger was asking for some sort of commission, or up-front fee for bringing customers into the restaurant. Needless to say this IS unusual -- though not totally unheard of -- and certainly not financially interesting for us. Luboš told him to forget about it, and stop by later to discuss whatever crazy scheme he had in mind.

A bit later Luboš received another phone call from Tomáš, the assistant manager, who'd just arrived at the café, asking what the strange package and the invoice was. Luboš said what are you talking about.

Here's what happened: Apparently there's a pretty common scam in Prague, where strange people walk into a bar or restaurant with a package and an invoice for a handy but reasonable sum. They get the name of the odpovìdní vedoucí ("responsible supervisor") from the front door, which is posted there by law, and ask for him. When the manager's not there, the guy shows up with a box and explains that he's spoken to Mr. Manager about this delivery for X amount. Sounds reasonable enough, since there are always delivery people coming in and out of restaurants, so the hapless waiter or waitress gives him the cash, and when the manager comes, he or she finds a box filled with dog biscuits or something.

Our waitress is not quite that hapless, but -- apparently after the guy got off the phone with Luboš (when Luboš basically told him to piss off) he explained to the waitress that Luboš had indeed approved whatever it was he was asking for. And so she gave him Kè 3,000 (about $125, not an insignificant amount for us) and the guy left us a box filled with empty jars.

Tomaš called the cops, and put the mobile phone in a plastic baggie to be tested for fingerprints. Needless to say, the waitress is in the doghouse.

But hey, we finally got some barstools.


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