By Chris King •
Published: 19 Apr 2023 • 3:45
Image of Amelia restaurant in San Sebastian.
Credit: Google maps - Xabier Sierra
A court in San Sebastián, this Tuesday, April 18, found in favour of chef Paulo Airaudo for having charged a client €510 for not showing up for a dinner whose reservation he did not cancel. The incident related to a booking at the Michelin-starred Amelia restaurant on July 16, 2121.
Three diners never turned up on that occasion for a reservation that had been booked online to eat at the establishment located on Paseo de La Concha in San Sebastián. As a consequence, Airaudo charged the money to the client’s credit card in accordance with the cancellation policy stipulated on the Amelia website.
He argued in the subsequent court case that by making the online booking, the client had accepted the cancellation terms of €170 per person.
Airaudo said that he remembered the conversation he had with the client when, on July 17, he tried to be assigned a table for that date. He had delayed his visit to the city by 24 hours and as a result, also postponed his stay at the Hotel Villa Favorita. Although the companies are different, the restaurant is located in the same building.
The client recounted that he had notified the hotel establishment that he would be delayed, but admitted that he forgot to do so with the restaurant. However, he took it ‘for granted’ that the hotel would notify the restaurant that they would miss their dinner.
The Argentine chef – who has been in San Sebastián for five years – told the client that both for dinner that day and for lunch on July 18, the place was full. He offered him a table instead at Amelia for fifteen days later, but he rejected the proposal, explained Airaudo.
After noticing that his card had been charged, the client – a notary by profession – warned the Michelin chef that he would take the matter to court. Several weeks later, the request from the court arrived, and a trial was held in December 2022. In March of this year the sentence was handed down, a firm pronouncement that ‘entirely’ dismissed the client’s claim.
The head of the Court of First Instance No2 of San Sebastián highlighted that the acceptance of the penalty clause in the event of the diner not showing up at the restaurant “was a sine qua non-requirement to make the reservation”.
In the terms, it clearly stated that cancellations were accepted without charge up to 72 hours before and: “that any cancellation or modification after that time was subject to a fee of €170 per person”.
“It is also a clause written in a simple way, easy to understand, and with an unequivocal meaning. In any case, it exceeds the controls of incorporation and transparency, and it must also be appreciated that the client has the profession of a notary”, added the judge.
Noting the date in question, the judge pointed out that the average price per cover in Amelia was €287.77, so the amount of the penalty was not disproportionate.
He affirmed that the non-appearance of these three clients entailed “economic damage” for a business that “seeks excellence and distinction both in obtaining the raw material”.
The judge quoted the words of one of the restaurant’s staff who testified in the case, pointing out that Paulo Airaudo imported lobster from Scotland and products originating in Japan. He also highlighted the preparation and subsequent presentation to the diner
Paulo Airaudo remarked that he was not interested in “an empty table” because he “loses money” with that. What he wants is to feed people and fill the restaurant. The chef assured the court that he had more incidents than he would like, due to last-minute cancellations, although this was the first time that one had been resolved in court in this manner, as reported by 20minutos.es.
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Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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