NANDOSGATE: The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth…
In the weeks, months and possibly years before the incident on 24 October 2016 a number of Magic Circle members had behaved less than professionally in Nandos. They had asked for discounts, complained aggressively and generally speaking not treated the staff with common courtesy or respect, as I believe one human being should treat another. Whilst I have never actually witnessed any of this, Rupert, the owner of the Euston branch of Nandos, tells me that it got so bad that he had trouble staffing his restaurant on a Monday evening, as the staff refused to work on the days that the magicians were likely to come in.
The lowlight of these incidences happened on 12 September 2016 when Andy Clockwise who was sitting at a big table of Magic Circle members, many of whom had their food in front of them, but Andy’s hadn’t yet been served. He could see his dinner sitting on a shelf waiting to be served for some considerable time and instead of doing what any normal human being would do and ask a member of staff if they could serve him his dinner, he instead stood up and shouted at the top of his voice in a crowded restaurant “will somebody please give me my dinner”.
I didn’t actually witness this incident as I was on holiday in Bulgaria at the time, however, whilst it was apparently sorted out on the night with apologies all around, it is clear that this did nothing to further the relationship between The Magic Circles’ members and Nandos.
The next time I ate in Nandos was on 3 October 2016 and this visit passed off without incident or any warning as to what was to follow.
On 10 October 2016 and 17 October 2016 I didn’t eat in Nandos and I have, via my credit card statement, proof that I was eating elsewhere.
On or very close to 17 October 2016, unbeknown to me or to any of the group that I normally dine with, Rupert’s staffing challenge had got to an intolerable level and he decided to ban all Magic Circle members from eating in his restaurant. Rupert tells me that there was no particular incident or trauma that caused him to take this decision at that time, it was just the general build-up that led to him taking action to support his staff.
IT IS CRITICAL TO NOTE THAT THE NANDOS BAN WAS IN PLACE APPROXIMATELY ONE WEEK BEFORE THE INCIDENT THAT LED TO GORDON AND I TO BEING CHARGED BY TMC.
When we arrived at Nandos on 24 October 2016 we could see a number of Magic Circle members inside the restaurant, sitting at tables, eating their dinner. As we walked into the restaurant the manageress, a young lady by the name of Barbara came over to us and said: “I am sorry I cannot serve you, you are banned, can I ask you to please leave.”
Dear reader, please put yourself in that position. We have been customers there for approximately four years, have never caused a problem and had a good working relationship with the staff. What would you do?
1. Turn on your heels and walk out and not say a word, or
2. Ask a question such as, why have we been banned? What have we done? Or similar.
Fay Presto tells me she would turn on the heels and walk out not wishing to give any of her money to an establishment that doesn’t want her custom and I accept that Fay may well do that. 100% of the other people I have spoken to say they would ask a question and that’s exactly what Gordon Drayson did with me standing beside him. Unfortunately, all of Gordon’s questions were answered by Barbara with “you are banned, there’s the door, please leave.”
Gordon asked Barbara if she would mind repeating what she said whilst he filmed her on his phone. Barbara declined to give permission and this was respected, however, another lady member of staff stepped forward and said she wouldn’t mind being filmed and here is the video that was taken.
There are points to note in this video…
1. Gordon was, in my view, a little bit aggressive in his tone of voice and whilst this is understandable it is nonetheless regrettable.
2. My total verbal contribution inside the restaurant is captured on this video. The lady refers to the incident a month before and she is referring to the Andy Clockwise incident on 12 September 2016. I point out, in the video, that I wasn’t in the restaurant on that day and she turns and says to me quite clearly, in a conciliatory tone of voice, that she knows me.
3. Both this lady in the video and Barbara kept saying “your group” had been banned and because we could see other members of The Magic Circle inside the restaurant we interpreted “your group” to mean the group that we normally sat with. (This is big misunderstanding number one.)
Just before the video ends I had signalled to Gordon to cut as it was clear to me that the decision had been taken by a higher authority and these people had no power to change the decision. We were shown to the door and departed from inside of the restaurant and congregated outside, close to the entrance but not blocking it.
Meanwhile, someone, probably a member of Nandos staff, had seen four transport police patrolling past and asked them to attend the scene which by now had, as I state above, progressed to outside of the restaurant. I believe all four of these officers were Community Support Officers attached to Euston station. One of the officers (I will call him chief policeman) asked me what the problem was? I said, “we had been banned from the restaurant and nobody was willing to tell us why”. He said “they don’t have to serve you if they don’t want to” and I replied, “I understand that, however, we have been eating here for a number of years, had never caused a problem and had no idea why we should be banned”.
He asked me to wait where I was and went inside with Barbara the duty manageress. He came back outside and said he had the bosses phone number and would give him a call. I thanked him for taking the time to try and help. He moved to the other side of the area from us, about 8 or 10 yards away, leaving us with the three remaining policemen. We engaged in some small talk and the atmosphere was so relaxed that I nearly got the cards out and showed them some magic. I didn’t, but the thought crossed my mind.
A short while later the chief policeman finished his call and explain to us that due to a number of challenges that his staff had experienced including aggressive complaining, asking for discounts, being rude and generally speaking, behaving poorly, he (the owner) had decided to ban all members of The Magic Circle.
It was at that point that we realised that the ban was not just aimed at us but was, in fact, being applied to all members of The Magic Circle, a big light bulb moment for us.
I then asked, “in that case why are those members of TMC in the restaurant eating?”
The reply was “are they members too?”
“Yes, they most certainly are” was my immediate response.
At this point the manageress Barbara and the chief policeman went back inside and I could see that they approached each of the parties that I had indicated and whilst I wasn’t actually present to witness what was said I have subsequently had it confirmed that each party was given permission to finish their meal and then asked to leave as all members of TMC had been banned.
We hadn’t noticed, but one member of TMC had slipped into the restaurant unaware of the situation, ordered his food and had joined one of the other parties. This party had told the late arrival member that Clive Hyams and Gordon Drayson had been involved in an incident that had involved the police which had led to all members of TMC being banned. (This is big misunderstanding number two) The new arrival then took it upon himself to call TMC HQ where he spoke to Darren Martin and passed on this (wholly incorrect and misleading) information. Mr. Martin quickly passes this information onto the President Scott Penrose.
Back to the restaurant
After we were told that all TMC members had been banned and it wasn’t just us we were happy to leave and choose another restaurant which we did. It is clear that the manager (Barbara) had learned from the experience with us and changed her approach to people who arrived at the restaurant after we left.
All parties who entered the restaurant after we left, no matter what size, were asked if they were members of TMC. If they answered in the affirmative they were told that all members of TMC had been banned due to the poor behaviour of some members in the restaurant and that they were not able to serve them. Clearly, this would be embarrassing to any member attempting to eat in Nandos on that night, but unlike us, they were told that all members of TMC were banned and why. If it had been explained to us in that way, I am confident that we too would have left without a word as we were all aware of the Andy Clockwise affair a month previous.
The next day (Tuesday 25th October 2016) Scott Penrose made an appointment to visit Nandos Euston to speak to the manager, which he did later that day.
I’ve had it confirmed that Nandos run a duty manager rota system and I believe it’s reasonable to suggest that the duty manager on duty on Monday night is unlikely (although entirely possible) to be the same manager on duty on Tuesday lunchtime.
Most of the duty managers do not have English as their first language and this sometimes can lead to some confusion. I have not been able to track down the manager who Scott actually spoke to but I do know for sure that it was not the owner Rupert. I do firmly believe that the manager Scott spoke to was not the same manager (Barbara) who was on duty on the evening of 24 October 2016, the night of the incident described above.
Please remember at this point Scott is under the impression that Clive Hyams and Gordon Drayson have caused a problem which involved the police which led to all members of TMC being banned. (This is big misunderstanding number three).
Scott had a meeting with the duty manager on Tuesday, 25 October 2016 and here is my guess as to how that conversation may well have gone.
This next paragraph is my personal belief as to what happened as I have not been able to confirm all the details…
Scott: I hear you had an incident here last night.
Manager: yes I heard that something happened.
Scott: can you tell me the names of the people involved.
Manager: no I’m sorry I do not know the names of any of your members.
Scott: can I show you some pictures, please?
Manager: yes of course.
Scott: here is a picture of our member Clive Hyams do you recognise him?
Manager: yes I know that person.
Scott: here is another picture of our member Gordon Drayson, do you recognise him?
Manager: yes I know him too, he sits with the other person you showed me.
As I say this is only my guess as to how the conversation may have gone but I believe this reinforces in Scott’s mind that Gordon and I had caused a problem that in his mind had clearly brought TMC into disrepute.
This is absolutely not the case. (This is big misunderstanding number four).
After Scott left this meeting he called me and the conversation went as follows…
Clive: hello Scott how can I help you?
Scott: do you know why I’ve called you?
Clive: I guess you want my side of the story of what happened in Nandos last night.
Scott: no you can save your pack of lies for Council, you have brought The Magic Circle into disrepute one time too often and I’m out to get you.
That is a direct quote which has been branded on my heart and needless to say I found extremely hurtful.
Now I fully understand that Scott was upset and angry that the club he loves as much as I do, had to his mind being brought into disrepute and he clearly felt that I was at least in part to blame. Now it does not need me to tell you, dear reader, that his comment is at best very un-presidential and at worst put Scott’s position as the head of an organisation who were effectively going to try me in an untenable position.
Now I have forgiven Scott in my own mind for his comment, as we all make mistakes, however, I would humbly suggest that he take some time out to calm down before making such a call in the future.
I now turn to various letters so that you dear reader can see both what Council had and what they said to me. I believe this will help you understand exactly what both sides had at their disposal.
NANDOSGATE: The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth…