Do Paying Fast Food Customers Have The Right To Sit In The Restaurant As Long As They Want?

If you were to pose the question in the headline above to a group of mostly elderly, Korean Queens residents who have really taken to their local McDonald’s, the answer would be a resounding “yes!” But ask the staff at that Mickey D’s who are constantly trying to shoo the revolving group of pals out the doors, and well, they’d probably say no.

That anti-lingering sentiment is evident in a sign posted at the restaurant saying customers have 20 minutes to finish their food, reports the New York Times.

But the group of friends — many who use walkers, canes or wheelchairs — often come in as early as 5 a.m. and stay on well into the evening hours. Every day, just to talk and well, hang out.

“They ordered us out,” one man nursing his coffee said of two police officers called to the scene a week prior. “So I left,” he said. “Then I walked around the block and came right back again.”

This battle has been brewing over the last few months, with the restaurant saying the group taking up seats on a daily basis are bad for business. They’re taking up tables for hours to split a small order of French fries, the restaurant claims, while the group says they’re customers and can take however long they want.

“Do you think you can drink a large coffee within 20 minutes?” said a 77-year-old member of the group. “No, it’s impossible.”

Things have gotten worse recently, with at least four 9-1-1 calls since November asking police to remove the group. Officers stop in multiple times a day on patrol, say the customers, who simply sneak out and come back a few minutes later.

“Large group — males, females — refusing to get up and leave,” read the police summary of one such 9-1-1 call. “The group passed a lot of sit-down time. Refusing to let other customers sit.”

When the NYT asked two 76-year-old friends why they keep coming back to McDonald’s, of all places — Burger King doesn’t do it and neither do any other restaurants — they couldn’t explain it. But yet despite getting kicked out by police three times, they’ll keep returning.

“I will just listen to them,” one said of the likelihood that he’ll face the cops again. “But I will come back inside after they leave.”

Fighting a McDonald’s in Queens for the Right to Sit. And Sit. And Sit. [New York Times]