A West London pub owner says Bill Clinton walked out without paying for a meal — but a presidential aide insists the owner said it was on the house.
President Clinton was enjoying his last visit to Britain while still in power when he popped into The Portobello Gold on Thursday for a quick bite to eat.
Owner Mike Bell says he was delighted to accommodate Clinton, along with a swarm of secret service agents, on his surprise visit — at least until he realized the most powerful man on earth had left without paying.
“They bloody well did not pay the bill,” Bell was quoted as saying to one British newspaper.
The story caused a stir in news outlets around the world.
British tabloid newspaper The Mirror says it volunteered to pay for the president’s meal — to avoid an international incident.
But it also grabbed the chance to run with the headline “We Pay Bill for Bill” splashed over its front page.
After the story was broadcast on ABCNEWS’ World News Tonight, a member of the Clinton administration called to say an aide offered to pay the bill before the president left.
Compensated With Publicity
The presidential tab came to a total of $36.22, for a large chicken ciabatta sandwich, a half a pint of beer, a helping of prawns and smoked trout and pecan nut pate.
But the pub has since gotten more than its money’s worth — especially in apologies and publicity.
“They’ve paid twice now,” pub chef Boss Goodman said with a broad grin, referring to the tabloid and an apologetic American embassy that insisted on picking up the tab.
He was more impressed with the president’s appetite than his apparent reluctance to pay.
“I wouldn’t quite say he did a runner. I just don’t think it occurred to him to pay,” a more diplomatic landlord Bell said later when the matter was settled.
Is Chelsea the Next Deadbeat?
This is not the first time the first family has left a member of the catering trade less than amused. First lady Hillary failed to tip a waitress during a campaign stop at an upstate New York diner early this year, a gaffe seized upon by then-senatorial rival New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Business was brisk at The Portobello Gold today.
In fact, three young men from Florida decided to follow in the footsteps of the outgoing president by paying the pub a visit. All ardent Republicans, they said they would pay for their drinks.