Kolkata's 'racist' Mocambo restaurant in a soup after its response fails to pacify netizens

An up-scale restaurant in the posh surrounds of Park Street in Kolkata has done it again. Reminding us, how urban aplomb and sophistication is quite the norm in our society, Mocambo, a fabled restaurant on the Kolkata high street reportedly denied entry to a cab driver, because he wasn't dressed 'appropriately'.

Dilashi Hemnani, a woman who was visiting Kolkata, said in a Facebook post that went viral, that she and her cab driver, Manish were denied a table at the Mocambo restaurant as the restaurant staff did not approve of the way he was dressed. Hemnani recounting the incident from 9 September, called the restaurant "racist" alleging that the staff first pointed out at Manish's clothes as apparently being below the standards of what they deemed fit for a fine dine restaurant.

Later, when she tried to confront them on whether there was a written rule about a specific dress code, the restaurant alleged that Manish was drunk and hence could not be invited into the restaurant. On last check, the post had 36,000 reactions, over 8,400 comments and it had been shared over 34,000 times.

Meanwhile, Hemnani's evocative post has prompted a campaign to knock the restaurant off Zomato as various users have re-rated their previous reviews and requested others to do the same, while many others panned the restaurant for its elitist approach. This had a considerable effect on the restaurant's Zomato rating as a Facebook user pointed out through a screenshot they had posted on 13 September.

However, on the last check, the restaurant was back on the rating of 2.8 amid allegations from several users that many negative feedbacks were being taken down from the page.

 Kolkatas racist Mocambo restaurant in a soup after its response fails to pacify netizens

Screenshot taken from Mocambo's page. Zomato

Screenshot taken from Mocambo's Zomato page. Zomato

Screenshot taken from Mocambo's Zomato page. Zomato

As the restaurant drew ire on social media and various media organisations picked up the incident, the 60-year-old restaurant finally felt bound to respond and clear 'their side of the story' on Tuesday.  However, much to the disappointment of netizens, the response letter was much like a standard PR response. It certainly lacked as much as a hint of an apology, and arguably, some sincerity.

The first paragraph is firmly dedicated to recounting the much touted "old world charm" and nostalgia the restaurant is often associated with. Further down, towards the end of the second paragraph will one get a sense that the letter is indeed a response to, or at least an attempt to, address a grievance of some sort.

In a classic hands-off response, the letter neither refutes the occurrence of such an incident, nor accepts responsibility. It does however promises an enquiry into the incident and a "followup action" on the "revelation of the truth."

Also, it would be unfair not to mention that Mocambo's management lists out a battery of things that the restaurant deplores as the grounds of discrimination between fellow human beings. But interestingly enough, words like 'class', 'financial status' or 'language', does not feature on that list, which would have been relevant to the incident in question.

It is instructive to note here that since the restaurant had no official presence on social media platforms, many rude responses were posted by impersonators that further aggravated the netizens' ire towards the restaurant, according to a report in The Indian Express. These fake responses, which can be seen as an attempt to further malign the image of the restaurant, prompted team Mocambo to take to social media with a response.

But the management's response, posted after considerable delay and perhaps deliberation, also failed to pacify the cybernauts possibly because it lacked the warmth and sincerity befitting the situation. A slew of angry reponses erupted within hours of the post being published. However, some patrons also took a sympathetic view and praised the food and services from their previous visits.

Also, the restaurant's response given to various media outlets were eerily different from the above Facebook post where they claim that "Mocambo's policy has been and still is not to discriminate" .

According to News 18, the head steward Sean Sams said, "We never said he was drunk. He was not neatly dressed and not clean... We have allowed under privileged people to have dinner here before. People have come here earlier with their drivers and maids."

The restaurant's owner Siddharth Kothari told NDTV "His clothes were not clean," he said. "People with shorts and slippers come all the time but if a guest is not clean, others may complain. Drivers, domestic help often come with employers. That's not an issue."

However, according to Vagabomb this is what the restaurant said, "Just wearing one pant and shirt... He was having roadside food and just standing, not in proper state of mind. He was not acceptable in our fine dining restaurant... We've such high standard guests coming here, it's a fine dining restaurant, we cannot have such a roadsider coming and sitting here."

That these responses reek of a typical elitism, perhaps doesn't make it a fair case of discrimination according to Mocambo's policy.

Well, this is what Hemnani had to say about her experience. "I'm sorry you don't deserve a fine human like Manish bhaiya sitting and eating in your racist restaurant."

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Updated Date: Sep 15, 2016 12:02:09 IST