Dear John: Recently I was refused service at Serafina restaurant on West 55th Street. The hostess said that because I was dining alone, I could not have a table outside unless I was willing to share it with a stranger.
Is this legal? Isn’t it discriminatory to refuse a table? I didn’t want to be forced to dine with a stranger. M.S.
Dear M.S.: It’s bad customer relations, for sure, but the New York City Law Department tells me that — based on what you told us — it’s not discriminatory.
It would be discrimination if, say, the restaurant gave a seat to a guy dining alone even as it was refusing one to you. So you should have asked a guy to request the same table to see what would happen.
I sympathize with restaurants. I can understand why they want prime tables to go to people who are going to spend more. A person dining alone, they would assume, isn’t going to spend as much as a couple.
I wonder what would happen if you told the hostess that you were really hungry and promised to eat enough for two.
And here’s something else: If a couple asked for a table and said they were just going to have appetizers, would they get the table?
There are several things restaurants can do. One, place “reserved” signs on all their best tables. Nobody ever knows if these tables are really reserved. But nobody can ever prove that they are not.
Or how about this? Restaurants should start taking people’s orders at the door and deciding where they sit on the basis of how big their bill will be. Order an expensive bottle of wine, and you can have any table in the joint.
“No, I’ll just have water” gets you seated back near the bathroom.
Personally, when I’m eating alone, I get a seat at the bar. And I pretend to be part of the group on either side.
Chemotherapy and radiation worked for a while. And my co-payment was affordable. Then I was put on the drug Opdivo, and it works wonders — except each treatment has a co-pay of $900, and I have to take it twice a month.
The hospital bill is $22,000. I’m retired and cannot afford it.
Sen. [Chuck] Schumer [D-NY] won’t do anything. I need answers. R.E.
Dear R.E.: Shame on Schumer. And I thought he was a nice guy. Well, you came to the right place.
I contacted Bristol-Myers Squibb, which makes Opdivo, and it has programs for people who can’t afford their medicines.
“Thanks for reaching out to get information about our patient-support programs,” said a spokesman for the company. “Bristol-Myers Squibb offers a comprehensive set of programs and referral services so that patients who need our medicines can access them.”
I e-mailed you the phone numbers and address to get in touch with this program. I don’t want to put it in this column because it only applies to Bristol-Myers Squibb drugs.
I’m surprised your doctor didn’t make you aware of this.
“Qualifying commercially insured patients enrolled in the BMS Oncology Co-Pay Assistance Program must pay the first $25 of their co-pay per date-of-service, which covers Opdivo,” the company explained.
“The program will cover the remaining out-of-pocket co-pay up to a maximum of $25,000 per product.
You should also ask about the hospital bills. You didn’t give me the name of the facility, but you might be able to get help there as well.
And good luck. Get back to me to let me know how this works out.