Freebies for Mayor Nutter?

When you're a popular mayor, it can be a real challenge to pick up the dinner check. At least it was last week, when Mayor Nutter and two guests dined at Parc, Stephen Starr's new French bistro on Rittenhouse Square.

When the mayor signaled for the bill, the server said Starr had insisted on picking up the tab. A nice gesture, to be sure, but also a pretty clear violation of the city's ethics rules, which do not allow city employees (even the mayor) to get their meals comped by Philadelphia restaurants.

When a reporter heard of the incident and asked mayoral spokesman Doug Oliver if the mayor often ate out for free, Oliver replied: "Absolutely not."

This was just a strange case, Oliver explained. Starr had left the restaurant by the time Nutter and company finished their meals, so the mayor couldn't insist on paying.

"The rules say meals aren't free, and the mayor understands that," Oliver said. "But it can be tricky: You don't want to spit in the face of others who are trying to make a gesture of kindness, either."

In any event, Oliver said Nutter tracked Starr down the day after his dinner and "squared up" with the restaurateur. Oliver said he did not know if Nutter settled the bill before or after he learned a reporter had asked about the dinner.