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Restaurants charging people who can’t show up over COVID concerns

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The non-refundable cancellation policy of a world-renowned, Michelin-starred Manhattan restaurant has left a bitter taste in the mouths of pre-paid reservation holders who have nixed their travel — and dining — plans over Omicron concerns.

The now-vegan Eleven Madison Park, named the best restaurant in the world in 2017, has become a hot topic on Reddit, where would-be diners are increasingly looking to sell their pricey seats — which so far run up to $1,524.25 for a four-person New Year’s Eve tasting menu — as reservation holders either test positive or choose to wait out this new COVID-19 wave.

Eater first reported news of the COVID-related online sales efforts on Tuesday — and now, reservation holders stand to lose out on the high prices they paid for a coveted meal if they can’t find a deep-pocketed taker on Reddit to transfer the reservation to.

Money on the line

Diners unable to make their pre-paid Eleven Madison Park reservations have taken to Reddit to try and sell them at face value to hungry shoppers looking to experience the exclusive eatery.
Brian Zak/NY Post

“It’s frustrating, because [Eleven Madison Park has] a waitlist, they have very few reservations available, so I know that there are people interested in what I’m trying to sell,” 28-year-old Erin, who declined to give her last name for professional reasons, told The Post.

In December, when January seats opened, the graduate student spent $729.46 on the reservation platform Tock to book a two-person 5:45 p.m. tasting menu dinner for Jan. 5, which she later rescheduled for Jan. 28 and now aims to sell on Reddit for that sum.

Representatives for Eleven Madison Park did not return messages seeking comment.

Now a vegan eatery, the Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park has long attracted a clientele looking to try its famed dishes.
Now a vegan eatery, the Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park has long attracted a clientele looking to try its famed dishes.
Brian Zak/NY Post

Erin and a friend had hoped to visit Eleven Madison Park, a restaurant she had long wanted to try, to celebrate the completion of school work and a return to dining out following the 2020 onset of COVID. But as Omicron quickly swept through the city in December, and continued its streak, the pair decided against heading to NYC for their rescheduled date — something the restaurant only allows to happen once.

They hadn’t booked any other travel arrangements. Now, she’s trying her luck on Reddit, where six users have voiced interest — four of whom have tried negotiating down the price. Only one priced offer has come through: $200.

“$200 is pretty low for something that cost me $729,” she said.

Erin isn’t alone. Another Reddit user, who aimed to get around $900 face value for a two-person Dec. 30 reservation — and ultimately chose not to go over COVID concerns — told The Post Eleven Madison Park said it would refund them after finding a waitlist replacement, but claim they still haven’t received it a month later. Requests for further comment were not returned.

Refund requests rise — again

Eater notes the Reddit listings are legal, as long as they are genuine attempts at transferring seats at a cost no greater than the one already paid. 

“If a booking is prepaid and non-refundable it becomes the property, like a ticket, of the booking owner,” Tock founder Nick Kokonas told Eater, adding that these transfers have found their way online for years, but have recently increased in number during Omicron.

Requests for refunds across Tock are at their highest since March 2020.

Reddit users have also taken to the internet to sell reservations to the acclaimed Michelin-starred Korean eatery Atomix.
Reddit users previously took to the internet to sell reservations to the acclaimed Michelin-starred Korean eatery Atomix.
atomixnyc/Instagram

Eater additionally noted that no-refund pre-paid reservations are now relatively common, due in part to the high price for ingredients and staffing at the ne plus ultra of city dining. Other restaurants with such policies include Saga, which offers a non-refundable $245-per-person tasting menu, as well as Masa, which requires diners pay a $650-per-person deposit when a reservation is made.

Pressure on restaurants

Atomix has walked back its no-refund policy in the wake of COVID.
Atomix has walked back its no-refund policy in the wake of COVID.
atomixnyc/Instagram

Meanwhile, Atomix — the acclaimed Michelin-starred Korean eatery where chef’s counter reservations cost $270 per person — has walked back from its no-refund policy due to a rise in cancellations during the pandemic. It too had earned its own posts from Reddit resellers. One, who didn’t respond to a request for comment, wanted $707.69 to transfer a two-person Dec. 27 reservation via Tock after the other intended diner “was not feeling well.”

Jinah Rhee, a project manager at Atomix, confirmed this policy — repeating the statement provided to Eater: “We understand the situation of guests who require cancellations day-of due to exposure or positive test results. For this reason, for COVID-19 we issue a full refund, and offer assistance to rebook the reservation for guests when they have returned to full health, based on availability.” Atomix declined to provide further comment.

Without any immediate recourse, Erin hopes to follow up today with hungry Reddit buyers.

“If I was going to lose it, I would just give it to a friend,” she said. But, she added, “Ideally, I would just sell it to somebody who’s going to go and is willing to pay the full price.”



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