Want a Reservation at One Hot D.C. Restaurant? Prepare to Sign a Contract

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Chef/owner R.J. Cooper at the restaurant Rogue 24 on Blagden Alley in Washington, DC.

The restaurant may have Rogue in its name, but the joint certainly looks to keep its patrons in line.

Many elite eateries have strict policies on cancellations and photography, but Rogue 24 has taken what’s usually an implicit verbal contract to a binding level. That’s right, get your pen out.

Rogue 24, headed by chef R.J. Cooper, fuses the eating experience with an intense visual adventure – after all, it’s housed in a grungy D.C. alley surrounded by dilapidated buildings. But the 2-page contract diners must sign along with their reservation calls up air of pretension.

Eater DC provides a look at the binding document which includes a ban on photography and cell phones during dinner. They cite the attempt to create an environment “free of distraction” – to focus on the food, right? It’s worth noting that the kitchen is in the middle of the restaurant. That should provide clamor enough to steal the attention of even the most tuned-out diners.

(PHOTOS: Grant Achatz, Culinary Miracle Worker)

Their stated cancellation policy is a demand even more intense than keeping your phone and camera stashed during dinner. You can cancel your reservation 72 hours before with no penalties. Fair. But when breaking it within that three-day window, prepare to face the penalty. You can cancel up to 3 p.m. on the day of your reservation with only a 50% penalty. After 3 p.m. or a no-show to dinner? Rogue 24 doesn’t care – they’ll put you on the hook for the full price. That’s up to $175 per person (if you choose the 24 courses with wine pairing). But how? Simple. Rogue 24 asks for your credit card number on the contract, so they’ve got you on the hook.

Okay, we realize it could be for Rogue 24’s own protection. After all, their carefully-protected “Journey” menu runs 24 courses and takes three hours to serve (and eat).  And surely hours of preparation go into each meal, providing apt backing for the intense cancellation restrictions. Imagine if photos from such a storied menu appeared on Twitter? The horror!

But really, no matter how delectable the menu might be, since when is a simple meal run like a business deal?  You might want to call your lawyer before planning your night out at Rogue 24. It’s only fair.

Nick Carbone is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @nickcarbone. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

(LIST: Six Things To Eat in 2011)

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