Khanya Dlodlongwana, 20, who allegedly told his waiter he “left his bank card at home” when it was time to pay his bill, appeared at the Point Road Magistrate’s Court on Monday.
He faced a charge of theft for allegedly bilking the Urban Lounge, a nightclub in Monty Naicker Road (formerly Pine Street), Durban, of R35885.
Dlodlongwana was released on R2000 bail. H
is legal representative, Rajesh Singh of Roy Singh Attorneys, said: “My client denies the charges preferred against him and will outline his defence in court. He has been unfairly treated by the establishment and all parties concerned.”
Urban Lounge’s owner, Ashoo Rampersad, alleged that Dlodlongwana, who was in the company of 10 friends, mostly males, had a taste for expensive alcohol.
He said the partying group consumed two bottles of Ace of Spade champagne that cost about R10 000 at the club, four bottles of Veuve Clicquot Rich champagne (R2000 each), four bottles of Hennessy brandy (R975 each), and mixers.
Rampersad claimed that in appreciation of the big spend, he supplied complimentary portions of beef, ribs, chicken and chips to the group.
He said he knew Dlodlongwana to be a forex trader, and that Dlodlongwana had visited the establishment previously.
“He’s not a first-time customer, and he usually talks big money,” Rampersad claimed.
On the night of June 20, according to Rampersad, Dlodlongwana spoke to him in his office, and said he planned to spend about R35 000 at his club, and would make similar big spends at other well-known Durban clubs in the days leading to his birthday on June 22.
Rampersad said he was “shocked” when he was told that Dlodlongwana didn’t have his bank card with him at the end of the night.
He ordered his bouncers not to let anyone from Dlodlongwana’s group to leave until the police arrived.
Rampersad said the drinks Dlodlongwana and his group consumed were ordered for another customer but he didn’t mind selling them to the group.
“I even gave them free food because it was Dlodlongwana’s birthday. Often, patrons run tabs with me but settle at the end. This devastated me,” said Rampersad.
Marcelle Roberts, the owner of Unity Brasserie on Silverton Road, Musgrave, said a few weeks ago a group of patrons bilked them of R2700.
“They claimed to be policemen and would return to pay. When management refused, they became aggressive and we had to let them go,” Roberts said.
Roberts, who has been in the industry for more than 20 years, said they usually took a 50% deposit when catering to large groups, and planned to track down the patrons who refused to settle their bill.
A prominent Durban restaurateur in Florida Road, who asked not to be named, said at least six patrons “dined and dashed” every weekend at this restaurant.
He allowed some patrons to run a tab up to R5000.
“In this industry, you don’t want to offend your premium customers, so we cap their spend at R5000. When customers attempt to walk out without paying, it’s best to call the police because if staff and management attempt to resolve the situation, the customers could turn the situation on its head and claim they were harassed.
“The wrong information could be posted on social media and your venue would gain a bad reputation,” the restaurateur said.
Wendy Alberts, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of SA, said there was an increase in bilking across the country, and, often, it was perpetrated by people who were members of a consortium. She said pub and restaurants had the right to ask for deposits when serving large groups.
Often, customers who left without paying complained about the service, or made other “weak excuses”.
“It is inexcusable to walk out without paying your bill,” Alberts said.
“Once you place an order you have to pay. If you are not happy, that doesn’t warrant non-payment.”
The association was compiling a database of offenders, who would be refused entry at establishments that were part of the association.
“We are on top of the issue. Restaurant owners communicate and share information about bilking perpetrators. They will be caught.”