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Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Kicking Customers Out, Hours After Closing

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I work at a very small cafe. Because of COVID-19, our indoor capacity is limited to 25%, which is a maximum of 10 people. In good weather, we can use our outdoor seating to accommodate an additional 10 to 14.

Yesterday, the weather was great, so we were very busy all day long. We currently close at 2 a.m., but last night, two women sat at one of our tables for almost an hour and a half after closing. We had already taken down our sign, closed the checks for the four other tables, cleared their dishes, wiped off the tables, closed the registers, paid out tips, got our deposit ready, sent home the dishwasher and one of the cooks, and even turned off most of the lights inside.

Without being rude, how do you ask people to leave? The owner (and chef) finally went out and spoke with them nicely, and they left. But for over an hour, we felt stuck. How should we approach this next time without risking a bad review?

GENTLE READER: “I am sorry, but we are closing,” accompanied, perhaps, by an apologetic look at the “Closed” placard -- a look that says, “I wish I could control the signs.”