Law & Order @ jm Curley

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Rules of Engagement

Posted: 01/16/2012

This post is dedicated to every current and former restaurant industry worker around the world.

During a recent interview with Imbibe and Inspire, I was forced to reflect upon what inspired me to launch this blog and write a book. One of my primary responses was working people, and the subculture of workers who serve the public. Also, the camaraderie between workers, their loyalty to each other, and their trust in me when they share their stories, inspires me. Having a mission I am deeply committed to and facilitating a conversation between workers and customers inspires me immensely.

The lure of the restaurant business is a strong one. After a brief respite, following the closure of my seasonal business on Cape Cod, I’ve jumped back into the business with both feet. I am currently bartending and managing at a new downtown gin mill/restaurant in Boston, jm Curley, named after Boston’s controversial four-term Mayor. Initially, I attended a few brainstorming and tasting sessions to help out, but was quickly sucked back into the fray after interacting with the management team and staff at jm Curley. I believe in what we are doing, and I love being part of a supportive culture where people take a lot of pride in what they do and have a lot of fun doing it.

There’s a lot to be said for loving what you do and trusting and respecting the people you work with.

Law & Order is the end product of several brainstorming sessions, emails, consults, texts, sidebars and iterations that included The Golden Rule, tipping guidelines, and several other whimsical suggestions, including proposed titles of, House Rules and Curley’s Commandments. Our intention was to reflect our culture and our collective industry experience in a playful, funny (and slightly irreverent) way. As evidenced by the reactions of our customers and a current Chowhound thread, an overwhelming majority of people ‘get it’, love it, and really appreciate the intent. There have been a few detractors, but that’s no surprise, given the fact some people will always be humorless, grumpy douchebags who aren’t happy unless they’re miserable or complaining about something. You know what that say about those who can’t take a joke…

Ironically, while I was reading in the wee hours of the morning (today), I stumbled upon Matt Damon’s responses to The Proust Questionnaire in February’s Vanity Fair.

The final question to Matt, What is your motto?

Matt Damon, “Don’t be a d-bag.”

Matt, you’re welcome to join us at jm Curley anytime. Dinner and drinks are on us…

Here is Law & Order as it appears on the menu at jm Curley:

  • Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s date, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor his grub, nor his cocktail, his barstool, space, nor anything that is thy neighbour’s.
  • No one on our staff goes by: Hey, Yo, Sonny, Tiger, Pal, Kid, Sport, Sweetie, Honey, Pork Chop, Chief, Champ, Captain, Boss, Buddy, Babe, Barkeep, Barmaid, Big Guy, Ma’am or Missy.
  • No loud shrieking, shouting, bellowing, whining, barking, nose blowing, flatulence or obnoxious cellphone use.
  • No groping, grab ass, mauling, sucking face, canoodling or heavy petting.
  • We welcome all comments and suggestions, but refrain from, “You should…” We know we should, but we can’t do everything and please everyone. Open your own restaurant if you know how it should be done.
  • The customer is NOT always right. However, the respectful customer is always right, and the asshole customer is always wrong.
  • No foul language…
  • Nobody’s perfect. Please alert us immediately if your expectations are not met. Exaggerating or lying on Yelp, Chowhound, or to anyone (after you leave) who can’t fix the problem, is for yellow-bellied cowards.
  • It’s food and drink, not life and death. Don’t take yourself too seriously, we don’t.
  • …Just don’t be a douchebag.

“Serving Up Neighborhood Justice”

I look forward to your comments, and please stop by and say hello when you’re in the neighborhood. Thank you.

25 Responses to “Law & Order @ jm Curley”

  1. Amanda says:

    Rule #2 should include that none of your staff are a dog or other companion animal and therefore will not come on command if you whistle.
    This is quite possibly the rudest and most insulting thing a guest has ever done to me (and that’s quite an achievement, considering how long the list is).

  2. Amanda- I included the no whistling rule in these lists:

    64 Suggestions for Restaurant Customers:

    #22- Never snap your fingers, whistle like you’re calling a dog, waive your hand in the air like you’re hailing a cab, or yell Hey followed by anything, when you’re trying to get your server’s attention. (Pardon me, or Excuse me, when you have a moment please, work really well.)

    64 Suggestions for Bar Customers:

    #23- Don’t be rude when you’re trying to get the bartender’s attention. Eye contact, a raised finger, pushing your empty glass closer to the bartender, holding up a bill while standing, Excuse me, Pardon me, and, When you have a moment please, all work well. The following are off-limits; Yelling barkeep, barmaid, cheesy nicknames (Captain, Kid, Tiger, Chief, Big guy, Champ, Sport, etc.), Hey, Gimmee, Get me, followed by anything; rattling your empty glass on the bar or snapping your fingers. Flagging is for cabs and whistling is for dogs. Simple rules even cavemen should know…

  3. Edward says:

    Awesome! Especially about those yellow~bellied cowards!

  4. Mike5966 says:

    Hey Patrick,

    I was one of your “detractors” on Chowhound. Anyway, just wanted to let you know I read this blog entry and see the Law & Order in a new light. I appreciate after reading some of the stuff you’ve written elsewhere the fact that folks in the restaurant industry probably deal with bad customer behavior on a fairly regular basis (much more often than even “good” customers probably realize) and that it takes its toll after a while. I can see that it’s helpful to come up with things like this that get the point across about how certain customer behaviors are perceived while at the same time keeping things light and fun in the expression of those ideas with the intent of maintaining good vibes all around. I guess I didn’t appreciate the humor or intent the first time I read it simply because most of my restaurant experiences are really positive and I kind of naively assume that it’s that almost always that way for most other customers and also the staff. I do see it better now, and although I don’t really consider myself a humorless douchebag most of the time (read, sometimes I really am a humorless douchebag), I do think that it is difficult for some well-meaning and decent people/customers to “get” the intent of the mantra of Law & Order on first pass simply because it’s difficult to know what life is like from your perspective at work in a restaurant. I work in the hospital and deal with really unruly, disrespectful patients on a fairly regular basis. We still do our best to provide the best care even if they are yelling and cursing at you. We share our war stories after work and blow off steam with each other and laugh about it to stay sane. Just like I’m sure folks in the restaurant industry likely experience, we need this type of thing because it’s difficult when you work hard and dedicate yourself to a vocation only to come across people who treat you with gross disrespect when you are genuinely doing your best to help them and provide the most excellent experience you can provide. But on the flipside, I think this comes with the territory, and I doubt that most folks outside of any specific industry or profession have good insight into what it’s really like to have to deal with the worst of their clients/patrons/customers, nor should they be expected to since it is exceedingly difficult to put yourself in someone’s very niche shoes unless you’ve actually been in their shoes. Doesn’t mean we all shouldn’t try, and in that vein, I wholeheartedly agree with the mantra of just not being a douchebag. However, for reasons stated above, I do maintain my reservations about expecting everyone to immediately “get it” lest you be branded a grumpy asshole.

    Regardless, I wish you and the folks at jm Curley the best, and apologies for any offense rendered on behalf of my Chowhound post.


  5. Patti DiVita says:

    Hey Patrick!

    Great to see you back in your usual wonderful writing form! Love the “Law and Order” guidelines and good for them for putting it in the menu. Too bad some people just don’t have the common sense anymore to behave in anyway that shows consideration for their fellow man. Alas, the me me me society… Ah well, at least there are those of us who are willing to fight back and try to hang to that old rule… The Golden One I mean! Love the comments about having fun at work…so true and not what the outside world thinks. But we can try to educate people about that one too, and we all have to work together! Peace out from the GWN.

  6. Neil says:

    I like the list but have to question the prohibition of “Ma’am.” Perfectly polite term to address a stranger.
    It’s also a little perplexing that foul language is proscribed but the list uses the terms “asshole” and “douchebag.”

  7. Matt says:

    I personally would never enter into this place. Yes, there are people who are douchebags, but when a place where I’m about to drop my hard earned money seems to think I am one until I prove otherwise, well, I’ll just mosey on down the street to a more douchebag-friendly eatery..

  8. Jeff Toister says:

    Nice list! Can’t wait to pay a visit on my next trip to Boston. Keep up the great work, Patrick.

  9. Lou says:

    Just 2 minor additions…please dont say “I’ll do a…” whatever drink you are ordering…because you’re not going to “do a” anything here. You might “have”, “enjoy”, “like” but not “do a”. And order the booze first…not a cranberry and vodka…it’s a vodka and cranberry. Just thinking.

  10. Joe khweis says:

    We need a rule about snapping your fingers,when im behind the bar there is nothing more that gets me pissed off when a guest snaps his/or her fingers at you like im your manservernt

  11. Matt- Good decision. Just keep walkin’.

  12. Amy says:

    Funny, I’ve been reading your blog for a while and I had no idea that the blogger and one of my new favorite bartenders were one in the same! I had meant to read the “rules” when I finally noticed them on the back of the menu last night but I somehow got sidetracked by thyme. Either way, both of my recent experiences at JM Curley’s left me thinking “what a fun, friendly place in a non-fake kind of way” as I walked out the door. I intend to become as “regular” as I can be.

  13. Steve says:

    I think I might be interested in seeing this place. I like good food and unedited copy.

  14. nana says:

    We had a wackadoo in the other day who was swearing at a server and when the manager asked him to leave, he stood up and hawked a loogie right in the manager’s face! So, I would add “no spitting” to the Law and Order!

  15. chaim yonkel says:

    Patrick, great response.

    Matt… if you look at some of the online comments, it seems as though the staff is very cordial and friendly. The list of law and order reads pretty funny and doesn’t seem to attack the masses however, simply admonishing douchebaggery. It’s rampant and rather they kowtow to it, I like the humorous way of avoiding it. Kinda makes me feel like having a high life at the curley bar I will be less likely to sit next to someone who treats service workers like garbage. Then again, you may prefer to, so as Patrick said, keep walking over to a place where they condone douchebag behaviour so you won’t stick out. Hard earned money knows humor too.

    Looking forward to a visit to jm Curley for some bubble hockey… go whalers!

  16. Marsha says:

    PORK CHOP!??!?! I’ve heard it all now!!! *hearty laughter*

  17. Hank says:

    I’ve been called “big guy” by servers/customers/strangers. Don’t like it. Is it appropriate to call someone “small guy,” “one legged guy,” “small breasted gal,” etc.? I do have a sense of humor, though! Thanks for creative list…the expectations are set when you enter jm Curley’s! “Hey, wheelchair guy, what can I get ya?”

  18. From a few miles south I applaud your tenets of Law & Order. Down here in NYC there are a number of bars which sport “house rules” as part of the decor. Doesn’t seem to be a problem with it. Actually, it’s somewhat charming. Civility often is.

  19. Natalie says:

    You obviously don’t get jokes, so I’ll leave alone the second part of your comment.
    For the record, ma’am is not necessarily flattering just because it seems “perfectly polite.”
    Come get a beer from me and I’ll tell you why.


  20. Big Paulie says:

    It is very refreshing to know that there are restaurants like ours where certain behaviors on the part of customers are just not tolerated. The customer may always be right, but when the customer treads on the rights of others, a line must be drawn. Sad that in our times there’re “adults” whose parents failed to raise them to respect themselves (and therefore respect others).

    The Corporate restaurants whose policies encourage selfish and annoying behavior also tend to wring their hands with regard to high employee turn-over. If they cared a whit about their employees, they’d realize that the value of a loyal worker is far higher than the value of a fussy, coupon-carrying brat who’ll probably never come back after wreaking havoc and demanding comps for every perceived injustice they endure.

    It’s best to create an atmosphere of safety and comfort for one’s regular customers and one’s employees. The employees will generate profit and the customers will return over and over and perhaps tell their friends.

    I just love the “Law and Order” list. I’m going to blatantly copy it and post it in our restaurant. The only problem with the Law and Order list is that the true imbeciles who violate such rules of behavior often haven’t a clue that they’ve done something wrong. Moreover, the style of the list, as written, will go straight over the heads of those for whom the list was most intended.

  21. Hank says:

    I love this blog and the work that Patrick is doing. I wish I could generate the same excitement from the public on my web-site for my efforts to eliminate bullying and promote the full inclusion of people with disabilities into schools, communities and neighborhoods.

    We share the same passion for civility and respect for all – no matter the job title or label.

    God bless.

  22. Taxi says:

    Way to stir it up PM. I use “brother” and “sister” quite a bit but only out of love…

  23. Kelly says:

    The Law and Order list is quite fantastic. I’m looking forward to checking it out!
    My only question is the ma’am. My husband went to a military school and everyone is sir or ma’am. For him, he’s being respectful. Miss, however, I totally appreciate.
    I hope the restaurant does well!

  24. Darren says:

    That is an amazing list I am so jealous of you Pattrick, it really makes me yearn for the old days when I worked for a small independent cafe instead of a large corporation.

    Ultimately, the fundamental difference between a small business and a corporation is that for one the employees are people for the other they’re numbers. When it comes to corporations those at the top are so far removed from the realities of the front line that their policies do not protect employees from abuse and encourage unreasonable behavior on the part of some customers. I know that to succeed as a business you need to get customers to come back, but there are some people you really don’t want to come back or to have as one of your regulars.

    Also, Kudos to Mike not many people would be big enough to issue an apology the way he did.

  25. Jodi B says:

    This is by far the best thing j have ever seen!!!! Been in the industry for 20 years and I LOVE THIS 🙂

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