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MN Supreme Court Sides With Servers Over 'Dine & Dash'

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The Minnesota Supreme Court has sided with a group of restaurant servers in a case that deals with people who "dine and dash."

The case goes back to 2010 when a group of people who worked at the now-closed Drink bars in Uptown and downtown Minneapolis claimed the owner used their tips and wages to cover customers who left without paying.

The workers testified in the trial that failing to make the payments could get them fired.

The good news is that dining and dashing doesn't happen very often, but it does happen. The question is how does management handle the loss?

When you're waiting on tables, you're busy. The last thing you want to worry about is a customer leaving you an empty plate and an unpaid bill.

Ellen Gustafson is a waitress at the Longfellow Grill in Minneapolis.

"We don't have to pay here, which is really nice, because it's not really anything that we did wrong, usually. In my opinion, it's never been something that I did wrong," she said.

That restaurant is one of seven places owned by Blue Plate Restaurant Company.

Stephanie Shimp is the owner.

"There is loss and it is a cost of doing business. We don't make our servers pay for that. I don't think it is the right thing to do," she said.

The Black Forest Inn has been in business in Minneapolis for nearly five decades.

Owner Joanne Christ said they've never asked the servers to cover the loss.

"Sometimes there are people who are planning it. Planning not to pay, waiting for the opportune moment to dash out the door. And we do have employees who dash right after them," she said.

Both owners said they try to get ahead of the problem by training their staff to be vigilant and to watch out for one another.

Sometimes what appears to be "dine and dash" is really just human error.

"I think people make mistakes a lot of times. We've had guests come back or call and say, 'Oh no, I've made a mistake!'" Shimp said.

Restaurant owners say they factor it all in as a cost of business, they simply absorb it.

On a much smaller scale, it's like what retailers do to cover the loss created by shoplifters.

In the State Supreme Court ruling that deals with the servers at Drink three years ago, the case will now go back to Hennepin County District Court to decide how much those servers will get paid.

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