BUSINESS

Thursday, July 1, 12:00 AM PST

Nation's First "Credit Card Only" Diner a Hit With Non-Homeless Patrons

by Brent the Johnson,
NA!P NewsWire

SAN FRANCISCO -- The challenge seemed insurmountable: How could Steven P. Nabley run a low-cost, family-friendly restaurant that didn't attract a bunch of smelly homeless people? Not an easy task in this West Coast city, as it turns out.

"The scent was driving my customers away," recalled Nabley, proprietor of Steve's Cheap Eats, an attractive, inexpensive downtown diner. "And no wonder! Here they are, trying to enjoy some affordable comfort food, and in walks some cripple, diseased guy stinking up the place. You can imagine how bad it was."

Although he tried his best to keep such people out, city officials warned Nabley that he couldn't "discriminate" against homeless people -- despite his clearly displayed notices that established his right to refuse service to anyone.

When the answer finally came to Nabley, 36, it hit him like a ton of bricks, or the scent of a street hag's dirt-caked hair: He'd convert his restaurant into a "credit card only" establishment.

The result? Business at Steve's Cheap Eats has boomed.

"You have to swipe a valid credit card through the door handle to even get access," Nabley explained. He got the idea from Citibank, which employs the technology at many of its urban ATM locations.

But even if some crippled Vietnam vet or runaway teenager/hooker should somehow make it past this first obstacle, they're often confounded by an inability to spend their meager coins or paper bills.

"Heh, they're always like, 'Man, get me my cup of soup -- this shit's legal tender and shit,' and they're just jingling a paper cup full of nasty-ass change," Nabley recounted. "And I'm all like, 'Sorry, we can't accept currency here.' It's pretty sweet to see that look of hopeless desperation cross their face when they realize they ain't getting nothing from me."

Patrons appeared uncomfortably relieved with Nabley's solution.

"Well, on the one hand, I am a registered Democrat and for equal rights and all that," said Laurie Carmichael, an admin assistant on her lunch break. "But whenever a homeless person walks in, I always feel guilty and miserable and sad. But Steve's Cheap Eats kinda takes care of that for me."

Other patrons, however, were stoked. "Fuck 'em," explained Blaine Staley, a financial analyst. "They ain't got a job? Ain't got AmEx? They don't deserve this place."

Homeless folks, however, aren't going down without a fight: Incidents of mugging have shot up 300 percent since Nabley has instituted the card policy.

"WHERE'S MY DOG!" commented Obsidian Flynn, a homeless man, when asked to comment on the story. "WE LOVE TO SEE YOU SMILE, DAGNABBIT!"

Nabley himself wouldn't comment when asked if he ever served any less-than-savory characters who happened to possess credit cards. "Hey man, I don't do the prejudice thing, you know," he declared. "I'm still from San Francisco."

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