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There's a scene in a restaurant where the booths fly (antigravity). When the restaurant first opened, the booths could be steered by their occupants; but drunks would pour food on other customers, so now the booths fly on programmed paths.

What's the story? Could be by Larry Niven (in which case I most likely read it before 1981), or not.

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    I searched for larry niven restaurant antigravity and found ... this. – Rand al'Thor Jun 3 '18 at 0:01
  • I think this is my first question to be listed on Hot Questions, woohoo! – Anton Sherwood Jun 3 '18 at 1:01
20

This is Handicap (also known as The Handicapped), by Larry Niven

Cziller's House of Irish Coffee. Inside, the place was still a cube, a one-story building forty meters high. Padded horseshoe-shaped sofas covered the entire floor, so close you could hardly squeeze between them, each with a little disk of a table nestling in the center...

"Interesting place," said Jilson. "These booths were built to float... It didn't work out. Lovely idea though. The chairs would swoop through the air, and if two people at two tables wanted to meet they'd slide their booths together and lock them magnetically."

There's mention of the drunks and their game

"It was fun. The guy who thought it up must have forgot that people come to a bar to get drunk. They'd crash the booths together like bumper cars. They'd go as high as they could and then pour out their drinks. The people underneath didn't like that, and maybe there'd be a fight. I remember seeing a guy get thrown out of a booth. He'd have been dead if that tinsel centrepiece hadn't caught him. I hear another guy did die; he missed the branches."

"So they grounded the booths."

"No. First they tried to make the course automatic. But you could still pour drinks on the people below, and there was more skill in it. It got to be a game. Then one night some idiot figured out how to short the autopilot, but he forgot the manual controls had been disconnected. His booth landed on another and injured three important people. Then they grounded the booths."

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    4-second jinx. Looks like yours fits better though. – Rand al'Thor Jun 3 '18 at 0:09
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    @Randal'Thor - A day late and a dollar short, as my dear granny would say – Valorum Jun 3 '18 at 0:11
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    Your granny used dollars? – Rand al'Thor Jun 3 '18 at 0:11
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    @Randal'Thor - Yes, Canadian dollars, admittedly. – Valorum Jun 3 '18 at 0:13
  • Ninja'd! This is definitely it. I took a detour through "worlds of known space" before looking into "neutron star" – Organic Marble Jun 3 '18 at 0:15
3

Could it be Larry Niven's short story "Intent to Deceive", aka "The Deceivers"?

I can't find a full text online to check the details, but I did find a summary:

It's told as a frame story - by Lucas Garnet, 174 years old, to Lloyd Masney, half Lucas age. In a fully automated robots-where-you-expect-humans restaurant called Red Planet. Lucas, the narrator is uncomfortable in a no-humans restaurant, & tells a personal experience from "around 2025" with very early versions of such restaurants - that is the main story. Near end, Lucas tells us he had made up the main story. But made up or not, that is the main story.

Lucas & a friend Dreamer Glass visited a then new all-automated restaurant called Herr Ober. "The only human beings involved were the maintenance crew, & they only showed up once a week. Everything else ... was machinery."

Larry Niven, check. Novel sci-fi restaurants, check. Can't be sure of the details though.

  • The full text is available at the Internet Archive. Doesn't seem to match. – user14111 Jun 3 '18 at 0:50
  • There are no floating boots in "Intent to Deceive", just a fully robotic restaurant. And shrimp cocktails. Lots of shrimp cocktails. – Euro Micelli Jun 3 '18 at 2:32

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