You must have heard about the recent incident at a restaurant at Ansal Plaza in the heart of Delhi where a woman was allegedly refused entry because she was wearing a sari, which, the restaurant staff was caught on camera saying, is not “smart casuals”. The restaurant has since issued an Instagram post apologizing for their staff’s remarks about the sari. While this incident brought into focus a strange dress code standard upheld by this restaurant’s staff, my recent experience at the same establishment indicates that the problem might run deeper still.
Let me start by introducing myself. I’m a Delhi-based entrepreneur and blogger with over 100K followers on Instagram. I focus on lifestyle, fashion, travel, beauty, and food, and have been blogging since 2015. My sister, Nidhi—who is also a blogger—and I grew up in South Extension, which is very close to Ansal Plaza. In fact, Ansal Plaza has been a regular hangout for us since our school days. This is partly the reason why our experience at the same restaurant that refused entry to the sari-clad lady was jarring. Here’s what happened.
A PR firm contacted me in late August for a review of the restaurant. Over my conversations with them, and on finding out that Nidhi is also a blogger, it was decided that both of us would be visiting the restaurant on September 4, with a plus-one each, and a professional photographer. Considering that it’s a restobar (which is a restaurant which serves alcohol and has a bar), we knew there would be disc lights, so we wanted someone to take good quality professional pictures. I was assured that a reservation for five people was made under my name for dinner on September 4. The restaurant never asked us who the plus-ones are, neither did they communicate if there was any dress code, protocols or rules they wanted us to adhere to.
On the day of the review, the five of us—the photographer, Nidhi, our parents, and I—reached the restaurant around 7.55PM. The lady at the gate (yes, the same one in the viral video) informed us that there was no reservation. I was a little shocked, but I thought there must have been a communication gap. So, I called up the PR firm and I was told that there is a reservation, but because there are ‘old people’ with us we can’t allow you inside.
The reason behind this, they explained, was the restaurant’s COVID-19 protocol. The simple questions that came to my mind at that moment were, firstly, if you are still adhering to COVID-19 protocols, why have you opened a restobar which is most likely to be crowded anyways? Secondly, if there’s any dress code or rule you’re following, then why won’t you communicate it before arrival? Given that I went as a reviewer, and not a regular customer, they could definitely have informed us beforehand. Thirdly, I have an issue with their tone and the way they kept calling my parents ‘old people’. There must be a better way of addressing people who are aged?
What’s more, the legal drinking age in Delhi is 21 years, and while restobars allow entry to customers below 21, they don’t serve them with alcohol. There is no such upper age limit, at least legally, at restobars, bars and pubs in Delhi. So, my parents—who are 55+ and have accompanied my sister and me to many restaurants around and beyond Delhi—should ideally have no reason to be denied entry? Being denied entry at a restaurant due to age is something I’ve heard for the first time in my life.
Coincidentally, my family and I went to another popular restaurant-lounge with a stunning rooftop view at Ansal Plaza the very next day, and everyone was welcome there. So, other restaurants, even in the same vicinity, welcome people of all ages and dress codes. While it’s good that this is not an industry standard, I do wish restaurants are held accountable for their approach and hospitality (or its lack thereof).
*This article is based on the experience of Shilpa Arora, and the opinions presented here are hers. Her Circle is merely presenting her story verbatim.