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Patron surprised to find mandatory tipping charges on bar tab

Last Updated Aug 9, 2017 at 7:02 pm EDT

A partygoer is warning others to read the fine print the next time you run up a tab at a restaurant or bar after she was hit with 18 per cent in mandatory fees, and she didn’t notice until the next day.

“It’s a rude awakening, right? I didn’t appreciate it at all,” Sandra, who didn’t want her last name used, told CityNews.

Sandra said she and two friends went to Rebel nightclub Friday night to celebrate Toronto Caribbean Carnival and opened up a tab at the bar. Not only did they pay $20 in advance for tickets, but with $15 drinks the bill came to nearly $190.

Here’s what jumped out at Sandra nearly two days later: $25 in mandatory “facility” and “party” charges, which amounted to 18 per cent in extra fees. On top of that, Sandra added a tip.

“Of course that’s a big surprise at 3 a.m. and of course I’m not looking at my bill at three in the morning closely,” she said.

Rebel bar tab showing 18 per cent in mandatory tipping fees

Sandra said at no point were they informed of the extra fees by Rebel.

CityNews reached out to Ink Entertainment, the company that runs both Rebel and Cabana nightclub. The company said all bottle service bills and running tabs at the bar are subject to auto gratuity.

“Please note that the 17 per cent fee is for auto gratuity of which 100 per cent goes to the Rebel employees that are directly involved with providing service to our guests and 1 per cent facility fee is a service charge to help pay for the operations and maintenance of the venue,” Ink said in a statement.

Spencer Sutherland, who owns Nocturne Nightclub and also sits as the executive director of Queen Street West BIA, calls the charges “troubling” but said they are becoming more common.

The Ontario government updated its tipping laws in June 2016, prohibiting establishments from taking a cut of tips from its employees. However, the new laws made no mention of automatic tipping or fees or requirements to notify customers in advance.

“I think that whatever the house policy is, that it be communicated to the customer very clearly. I think that’s the key issue here,” Sutherland noted.

Sandra said this experienced has soured her opinion of the bar.

“I’m not going to go to an establishment like that again because I just think it’s a shady practice.”

The Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association says while there are no black and white rules when it comes to mandatory tipping it strongly encourages businesses to be transparent and notify customers of any additional charges.