Humberto A. Taveras, 41, faces a misdemeanor charge of theft of services after he and his fellow diners argued with Soprano's Italian and American Grill managers over the legality of requiring an 18 percent tip for large parties.
"They chased us down like a bunch of criminals," Taveras said. "It killed our weekend."
Taveras and eight others had pizza at the restaurant in this resort village Sunday night. He told the Glens Falls Post-Star they weren't completely satisfied with the food and left a tip of under 10 percent. Taveras said they also were not told of a mandatory 18 percent gratuity for parties of six or more and did not see notice of it on their menus.
Restaurant owner Joe Soprano said all the menus have the notice, and the waitress informed the group. He said he did not choose to pursue charges because of the money, but because Taveras' group was obnoxious.
"It's unfortunate it has come to this, but this guy was rude and abrasive. They practically threw food at us," Soprano said.
Taveras plans to fight the charge. He was issued an appearance ticket and was scheduled to appear in town court Thursday.
The arrest raises the issue of whether the gratuities that restaurants automatically tack on for serving large groups are legally enforceable debts.
Warren County Sheriff Larry Cleveland said he did not believe the issue had been litigated before in New York. He said the case could turn on whether the person is notified of the tip requirement beforehand.
"It's not a black-and-white issue," Cleveland said. "It will be very interesting to see where it goes in court."