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Man Outraged Over $100 Minimum At River North Restaurant, But Many Restaurants Are Holding Onto Such Rules

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A Chicago man was outraged when he was faced with a minimum payment to eat at a restaurant, and he thinks the rule should go away now that the city is opening back up.

But CBS 2's Steven Graves found out the rule is not going away, and more restaurants are also holding onto other rules.

When Howard Tolsky went online to book a dinner at Steak 48, at 615 N. Wabash Ave. near the Mag Mile, he immediately started losing his appetite for any experience there.

"It's a shame," Tolsky said.

It was all because there was a $100 minimum for himself, his wife, his and mother-in-law – each, per person.

"I figured, well, we're not going to spend $300," Tolsky said. "We might spend $250. But I don't want to spend $300 dollars on a meal that costs $250."

The restaurant says the rule went into effect early last month, coming off of longstanding limited-capacity indoor dining because of COVID.

The high-end steakhouse said the minimum will stay in effect for a "successful" sit-down experience and "support" of restaurant staff. This is the restaurant's official statement:

"Like many in our industry, we had to make some updates to our policies. The $100 per person minimum will remain in effect to provide the ability to be successful as a steakhouse designed for the full sit-down experience and support our restaurant's operations and staff."

But Tolsky took his $250 elsewhere.

"Now is the time for them to attract customers and not detract them," he said.

As the city fully reopens, other restaurants also still doing reservation deposits.

At Maple & Ash, 8 W. Maple St., you'll pay $100 per person that will go to the bill. That started early this year.

At TAO, 632 N. Dearborn St., the minimum is $35 per person.

"Most of our price points range from $30 to $45 per person," said Scott Weiner, co-owner of the 50/Fifty Restaurant Group. "We haven't had the conversation yet about taking it away."

Weiner's group is not doing minimums, but he said the newer deposits help guarantee people show up.

"We want to make it where it stings a little bit, but it really doesn't sting that bad," he said.

Reservation site OpenTable unveiled a tool this Summer to label repeat no-shows. They say about 28 percent of Americans were no shows for in the past year - adding to the financial strain on revenue, supplies, and staffing.

"We have about 15 to 70 cancellations per day," said Steven Hartenstein of Phil Stefani Signature Restaurants.

And if the problem gets worse, Hartenstein said he will start restaurant deposits too.

"I have considered putting that into effect," he said.

Chicago restaurants said of the reservation issues and minimum wage hike, we can expect to see prices rise in the next months or weeks.

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