The subject of restaurants — especially bars, pubs and nightclubs — denying entry to people based on their appearance, is brought up now and then in our conversations. We are often told that it is the restaurant’s choice and we can choose another place if we do not like it.
But are the restaurants making the right choice? Would you be in favour of a place that discriminates people on the basis of their clothes and shoes?
Some years back, Kolkata’s oldest fine dining restaurant, Mocambo, found itself in the middle of massive criticism after a woman alleged that the eatery refused entry to her driver. In their defense, Mocambo Manager Ashish Malik said the restaurant does not believe in discrimination, but the driver was ‘dirtily dressed’. The racism row, however, landed the restaurant in trouble.
These restaurants may have the right to make their choices when it comes to their private property, but people similarly have the freedom of speech to opine about these practices. This kind of practice did not come to an end following the incident that took place in Mocambo. Several bars and nightclubs still deny entry to guests on the basis of their appearance.
Recently, a group of brothers and sisters visited THE GRID, a popular microbrewery in Kolkata. The eldest of the cousins, Koustuv Saha, was initially denied entry because he was wearing slippers.
Speaking with Platocast, Koustuv, 28, says: “Four of my brothers and sisters had already entered the place while I was outside talking over the phone. A woman employee at the entrance stopped me while I was about to enter, pointing out that my uncovered shoes were “too casual”. I called up my cousins and told them I was being denied entry.”
Koustuv’s cousin Rohan came out with the others.
“To reason with the authorities, I remarked that my sisters were wearing uncovered shoes too. To that, an employee told me that I must not make such comparisons because I should know that there is a difference between men and women when it comes to protocols like these,” Rohan says.
The cousins claimed that this kind of practice can be very insulting and humiliating. After a war of words, the group was let in.
To understand what happened, Platocast contacted the manager of THE GRID, who refused to be named.
The manager claimed that the staff made a mistake because such dress codes are only followed during some particular hours on the weekends. That, however, still means that such protocols are in place, even if they are not followed every day.
On being asked for a clarification on the same, the manager says: “We do not discriminate against people and make sure we serve our guests well. Uncovered shoes are a threat because on the dance floor, people might step on each other’s feet, causing accidents.”
He did not have facts to back this claim because women are still allowed to wear open shoes. If avoiding an accident is the motive, then the rule should be the same for men and women.
Koustuv’s sister, Kajari, who had also tried to reason with the authorities, says: “The rule, in itself, seems discriminatory and classist. There is no clarity on why exactly the rule exists — based on the explanations given by these authorities. There is some vague notion of it being a tool to ensure safety.”
A restaurant called Traffic Gastropub in Kolkata also follows the same protocols. Soham Banerjee, an Economics student, says that he and his friends were denied entry because one of them wore uncovered shoes.
“When we asked them what the reason was, all they had to say was it is the rule,” Soham says.
Placocast reached out to Traffic Gastropub to understand why such a protocol is in place. The restaurant authorities, however, refused to comment on the same, claiming that they do not wish to discuss house protocols.
Agent Jack’s Bar in Mumbai, too, does not allow entry to people wearing uncovered shoes. On being asked about the protocol, the manager remarked that there is no reason as such, but is just a rule that is being followed.
Kajari, whose brother was stopped at THE GRID, adds: “The screening that they subsequently follow is not justified. If their main motive is to screen people according to their social and economic status (which collates to them emphasizing on guests being ‘properly’ dressed), then the rule falls flat on itself, since this is mainly followed by high-end places that are expensive, and therefore cater to a certain section of the ‘rich’ population. People who go there are the ones who can afford to, and even if they are wearing slippers, for which they aren’t being let in, have got to be expensive slippers.”
None of the pubs, bars, nightclubs or restaurants were able to give us a concrete reason for why they deny entry to people on the basis of their appearance. It is embarrassing for people who are denied entry, and it is only natural that they would feel that these places do not allow people who are dressed in a certain way because that is probably how they judge a person’s ability to spend money within their establishment.
Fashion is all about fluidity. These eateries need to remember that even if a guest is wearing a pair of slippers, they would still pay the staggering amount that the menu demands.
If indeed there is no logic behind the rule, this is high time it is removed from its place. There is no place for classism, sexism and other regressive ideas behind these rigid dress codes plaguing our hospitality industry.