Rights to admission reserved at restaurants: Colonial hangover or a vibe thing?
Sunday evening, filmmaker Faraz Arif Ansari and their friends went to a restaurant in Benares, where they were refused entry. In a social media post, Ansari alleged that it was because of their attire. Dressed in a traditional kurta with churidar and Kolhapuri chappals, Ansari visited the restaurant for brunch at about 5.30pm. This is what they say ensued: “When we arrived, we were asked not to enter the restaurant because most of us were in Indian attire and Indian footwear. We were made to wait outside for 20 minutes, and then asked to leave. The manager was deeply prejudiced, snobbish and utterly rude to all of us. He didn’t even address us and just walked away after listening to us, telling his staff to put up a board mentioning about footwear. They only have a board for masks and weapons.”
Ansari alleges that the restaurant management’s behaviour was out of line. “The manager refused to even acknowledge us or look at us while we were standing right in front of him. And this isn’t a club; it’s a regular restaurant,” they add.
Upon contacting Molecule, the restaurant in question, it was found that they have a policy against open-toed slippers or sandals. “We have a policy of not allowing people with a certain dress code and we stick by it. But if the staff didn’t behave well, I apologise for that,” says co-owner Sahil Sambhi. He further elaborates, “There is no incorrect or correct dress code — we don’t allow people wearing slippers; you have to be wearing covered shoes.”
Restaurants everywhere reserve the right to admission, which depends on certain parameters set by the management. We speak to some restaurateurs to find about their policies and how they train the staff to manage violations.
Dress code is relative to the ambience and the vibe of the place, feels Suveet Kalra, owner, Ardor 2.1. “We are already suffering because of Covid, do you think we even have time to discriminate against people? In our restaurant, we allow people in Indian wear, but our lounge area is where everything is flashy and all about showing off, so we don’t allow certain dress code. It’s as simple as that,” he says adding that it all boils down to how you groom your staff. “The way you treat your staff, they will treat your guests. You will never encounter any such problems at our restaurant. Our managers conduct regular training and grooming sessions with our staff. If the staff is courteous and well-trained in their approach to the guests, then these situations are easily avoidable,” he says.
Navneet Kalra, owner Townhall, says that as long as guests can carry themselves well in whatever they are wearing, no one is denied entry. “The kind of guests we get at are all sharply dressed, be it kurta pyjama, shorts or any Indian attire. There is no discrimination. There is a way to carry yourself and as long as people are decently dressed, everyone is welcome,” he says.
Dinesh Arora, founder, La Roca says that both the management and the guests need to apply reason when in such a situation. “We follow different dressing rules for different concepts. For a nightclub, we follow a strict dress code as those places have more of international vibes. Our cafes, fine dining and lounge bars are open to any sort of dressing as we get guests across generations. Our staff is trained to explain to customers the reasons behind our policies and usually, people respect it. But there are times when customers also provoke the staff. However, we make sure that our staff always remains courteous,” he says.
However, there is a view that restaurants are built upon a certain vibe, which takes a lot of hard work and investment, so it is solely upon the management to decide whom to allow entry. “We invest a lot of time, money, and passion to bring a particular vibe to a place and the vibe is the soul of any restaurant, bar or club. If someone is dressed in a particular fashion which is not incorrect in any way, but kills the vibe and decorum of the place, then one can be denied entry as others are respecting the same. You still can’t enter a golf club or gymkhana clubs in round neck t-shirts and jeans, or t-shirts with a lot of branding. All members and guests respect and follow it,” says Akshay Anand, co-founder, Ophelia.
Interact with Etti Bali @TheBalinian
Follow @htlifeandstyle for more