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Danny Meyer Triumphant in Suit Claiming He’s a No-Tipping Conspiracy Ringleader

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The suit against Meyer, David Chang, the Eleven Madison Park guys, and other chefs has been dismissed

Danny Meyer
Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for The Association of Magazine Media

An over-the-top lawsuit painting Danny Meyer as a no-tipping conspiracy leader is no more.

In a lengthy dismissal, a U.S. district judge found dubious evidence that Meyer and his non-cronies David Chang, Andrew Tarlow, Gabriel Stulman, Tom Colicchio, Daniel Humm, and other big-name chefs worked together to pocket money through increased prices when going tipping-included.

The suit, from diner Timothy Brown, alleged that Meyer “spearheaded” it all during a meeting with the restaurateurs, but the judge did not agree, at least from present evidence. The dismissal does not preclude Brown from suing again.

Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, Humm’s Make it Nice, and Tarlow declined to comment. Colicchio, Chang, Andrew Rigie, and Nate Adler did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did Brown’s lawyer. Stulman said he was “grateful and happy” about the dismissal. Several Bay Area restaurants were also named in the suit. Meyer and other restaurateurs tried to get the case dismissed last year.

The no-tipping movement has increased in recent years, and Meyer has been a leader in it by publicly and loudly announcing in 2015 that his Union Square Hospitality Group restaurants — including Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, and Untitled— would move to a gratuity-included business model in 2016. Most have since then, with Blue Smoke the last to go.

Others named in the lawsuit have also spoken out for and employ no-tipping models, but the judge ordered that the court has no jurisdiction over that decision. The no-tipping movement has been part of national conversation in recent years, spurred on by rising minimum wage, the disparity in pay between front-of-house and back-of-house employees, and the struggle to find and retain kitchen talent.

While the practice been adopted by the restaurateurs named here, it has not been without its setbacks. Restaurants like Fedora and Nishi in NYC and Bar Agricole in SF backpedaled on the practice when they couldn’t make it work. In the biggest blow to the movement yet, Tarlow ended the practice at all his Brooklyn restaurants in November, saying that he couldn’t make it work.

Meanwhile, Meyer’s the Modern reportedly had its most profitable month ever after switching to no-tipping, though data is not available on months since then. NYC restaurants like Little Tong and Pasquale Jones continue with the practice.