A British Asian woman has accused a restaurant of “racism” after being denied a table when they showed-up – but offered one when they called up in a “white accent.”
They say they were turned away despite there being several empty tables when they arrived at the Parisian-themed chain restaurant.
A member of staff at the Côte Brasserie in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, told them it was because they operated on a ‘reservations only’ basis during a busy Mother’s Day service.
But Fatima Rajina has told how she had an “instant gut feeling” about the reason behind their being turned away.
Unconvinced, Fatima said she and her friend then phoned the restaurant using a ”white accent” to try and book a table.
They say they were then told one would be available in 15 minutes.
PHD student Fatima, whose work at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London focuses on British Bangladeshi Muslim identity, took to Twitter to vent about their treatment.
She posted: “So, a friend and I just got turned away from Cote Brasserie in Welwyn Garden City. The waiter said it’s reservations only but my friend and I knew there was more to the story.
“We saw empty tables for two around the restaurant. However, we walked out and he decided to call ‘em up.”
A spokesman for the restaurant said it was “saddened” by the event but “strongly deny that there is a policy to refuse guests a table on any basis other than the restaurant being full.”
Her post was retweeted nearly 3,000 times within 48 hours – with many commenting about their own experiences.
Fatima Rajina, who was visiting the town for the first time, says she and a friend were left ”upset” and “angry” when they were refused a table by a waiter at the Howardsgate restaurant on Sunday (March 11).
She explained: “We went to Bill’s first and they said they were chock-a because of Mother’s Day.
“They were very apologetic about it, very polite, and as we don’t know the area well we asked if they could recommend somewhere else and they told us to try Côte .
“We turned up and a woman told us to wait a moment at the door, before a white waiter came up and said ‘sorry we only take reservations’ — no hello, no nothing.”
She continued: “As we were walking away my friend turned to me and said ‘do you think we just got rejected because of our skin colour?
“We just felt that was the case but we wanted to put it to the test.
“So he called up and put on the poshest accent he could and said ‘hello we are really interested in booking a table for Mother’s Day, do you have a table?’
“And they were very polite and said they could offer us one in 15 minutes.
“He confronted her and said ‘well why wasn’t I offered one when I was in the restaurant ten minutes ago?’
“She got really flustered and said if we came straight away she would give us one but obviously we said ‘well we don’t want the table now’ and told her that we would be taking it further.
“After the phone call we just got in the car and felt so upset, so we just went back to Luton and ate there.
“It reminded me of things when my parents were young, when there used to be signs on restaurants saying ‘no Irish, no blacks, no dogs.’
“It’s a lived reality for a lot of ethnic minorities but when it happens it still stings, it hurts.”
“We felt uncomfortable at first”
Fatima’s friend, who does not wish to be named, worked in Welwyn GC for five years previously, and said it was the first time he had ever had a problem.
The 28-year-old Hitchin resident, whose family is of a Pakistani background, said: “We walked in and for the first two to three minutes we were ignored then one of the men came out, looked us up and down and said ‘it’s reservation only and we’re fully booked’.
“We felt uncomfortable at first as it was quite abrupt and afterwards I just felt disgusted — Fatima had to stop me going back.
“When I confronted them on the phone I said, ‘I’m smartly dressed, I’m a professional guy, did you just not give me a table because of the colour of my skin?’ She just hung up.
“How many other people would have had this before and said nothing or not been able to stand up for themselves?
“I was refused service in Poland once while I was in Warsaw but never in England. It’s a horrible feeling.”
When asked if he would be submitting an official complaint, he added: “If this is the sort of behaviour they’re operating do you think a complaint would make a difference?
“They have my mobile number but no manager called me back. It’s obviously institutional.”
“I’d like a public apology”
A duty manager at the Welwyn GC branch confirmed to the Hertfordshire Mercury that the restaurant did not operate on a reservation only basis, but declined to comment further.
The pair have since left reviews describing their experience on TripAdvisor, Google and Facebook, while Fatima says she wants an apology from the company.
The 30-year-old said: “I’d like a public apology for how we were treated.
“I’m aware that Welwyn and Hertfordshire as a whole is predominantly white, so I don’t know if its a lack of training or what but I’d recommend better training.
“I think they would only say something because it’s gone public but of course I also expect that franchises like Cote are probably not that fussed about ethnic minority customers as we’re not their base.
“I don’t think they particularly would care about us essentially.”
She added: “You can see from the reaction to my tweet that this kind of thing is not an anomaly, it happens to other people.
“I used to work in retail and I could just sense it when people didn’t want to touch my hand when I was giving them change. They would ask me to put the money on the till.
“It slips into the wider spectrum of these kind of things, the wider narrative of how ethnic minorities are treated.
“A lot of white people just won’t get it but black and Asian people will just see it and think it’s just another story to add to the list.”
Côte Brasserie statement
A spokeswoman for Côte Brasserie said: “Yesterday, on Mother’s Day, we had our busiest day ever, serving a record number of guests.
“It was regrettable that being so busy we had to turn away a number of people who had not made a booking.
“We are saddened to hear that someone who was turned away, felt dissatisfied as a result.
“At Côte Brasserie we are proud to be an equal rights employer, counting over 120 nationalities amongst our team members.
“We have a strict zero tolerance policy against any form of discrimination, whether it be amongst our team or towards our guests.
“We strongly deny that there is a policy to refuse guests a table on any basis other than the restaurant being full.
“As such, we are taking this allegation very seriously and have also reached out to the guest in question to discuss the matter further.”
Source : BirminghamMail