AM hosts split on whether staff member at Napier's Smiths cafe was right to kick out Hawke's Bay Today journalist Mark Story

  • 10/06/2024

The unwritten rules of cafe table squatting have come up for debate after a Hawke's Bay journalist was kicked out of one after an hour, then banned from the owner's other establishments.

Hawke's Bay Today deputy editor Mark Story said he was asked to leave Napier cafe Smiths after being told he hadn't spent enough to stay longer.

In an opinion piece published on Sunday, Story said he spent $12.50 on a brioche and a flat white last week, and settled down to do some work - something he has regularly done at Smiths.

After an hour, a staff member asked him to leave unless he bought more food, despite other tables being available.

Story wrote that when he spoke to manager Lisa Caro, she "upgraded my punishment to a total ban on entering any of her Hawke's Bay establishments".

Eat Drink Share HB, which runs Smiths, also runs Ajuna and Monica Loves, both of which Caro is a shareholder in.

Story's experience prompted a discussion on AM, with the hosts divided on who was in the wrong.

Amanda Gillies and Nicky Styris both thought it was fair that he was asked to leave.

"You're not paying rent for that to be your work office," Styris said.

But Lloyd Burr said it was nonsensical that he was asked to leave when the cafe wasn't full.

"If you're the cafe, do you want your cafe to look full, so people go 'Ooh, must be good food in here' and then come in?"

He called Story's total ban from all Caro's establishments a "brutal punishment".

"At a time when hospitality is hurting, I don't think they'd be turning away that many people," he said.

Burr said that in his past roles as a political journalist and Newshub's Europe Correspondent, he frequently worked out of cafes and pubs, using their wifi and recharging his devices.

He always made sure to buy something, even if he didn't want to eat it.

"I'll buy it just to be nice, just so I can use the facilities," he said.

Burr acknowledged AM audience feedback showed many people believed the cafe had the right to make its own rules.

Story said he held "no ill will at all" towards Smiths and its owner, and would happily return if his expulsion ever expired.

Smiths owner Lisa Caro declined to comment when contacted by Newshub.