After the media firestorm over a Google Glass-related fight at Molotov's last week, it's not surprising that some bars might be concerned about future dust-ups. Newish SOMA bar The Willows, located just a few blocks from the increasingly tech-centric mid-Market corridor, has decided to take a proactive stance on the subject, banning the high-tech specs entirely from the premises. Broke-Ass Stuart originally caught their sign on Instagram, and co-owner Trista Bernasconi explained the decision in an interview: "This was a conscious decision by the owners to make this a place where anybody can come and not feel they need to inhibit or change their behavior. It's mainly for the privacy of our customers."
Bernasconi says that the policy dates back to a customer who dropped in a couple of weeks ago wearing Google Glass, and who, when politely asked to remove the offending eyewear, retaliated with a one-star Yelp review. "Very rude servers. Asks customers to remove their Rx Google glasses before being served, if glasses aren't removed no service!" wrote Yelper, former Army medic and Ohio State student James Power (who, incidentally, has only written this one review on the site). "Insanely bad customer experience." The sign is more of a precaution than a major issue, says Bernasconi: "Aside from that one customer, we haven't had any problems with people. Most people are respectful of other people's privacy." She says the bar's policy is to politely ask patrons to remove the glasses when they enter; if they don't comply, they'll be asked to leave.
Bernasconi, who says she's gotten only positive comments about the policy from patrons since putting up the sign, says the policy was based in her own views: "Personally, I feel most comfortable when I don't have to worry about being recorded at any point in time. I like feeling at ease knowing I can enjoy a cocktail without having to worry about it." That said, the policy doesn't apply to other recording devices, such as phone cameras or video cameras. "With someone taking a phone photo or video, you can see immediately that they're recording it, unlike with Google Glass. For someone to record video or audio, they have to be somewhat obvious about it, whereas with the Google Glass, you don't know whether they're just looking something up or recording something." For now, the policy doesn't apply at the Willows' sister bar in the Mission, The Sycamore (in which Bernasconi is not a partner).
Bars and restaurants banning Google Glass may become increasingly common as the fledgling technology drops in price, with privacy concerns cited as a major issue. Molotov's has banned audio and video recording of any kind in the wake of their incident, while other restaurants, like Acquerello, have publicly complained about diners wearing the devices in their establishments.