WATCH ABOVE: Darshan Dorka says he and his friends were turned away from a restaurant because they were wearing turbans. Angie Seth reports.
TORONTO – The America Restaurant at the Trump hotel in Toronto is being accused of keeping a group of men out because they were wearing turbans.
Restaurant staff, however, said they were at capacity.
Darshan Dorka wrote a long, personal, and sometimes satirical post on Reddit Tuesday detailing what happened Saturday night when he, along with some friends, went to the restaurant to join a birthday party that was pre-booked and already in progress.
“We gave the birthday girl’s name, which seemed to ring a bell in the older lady’s mind. She then told us that our friend did not end up booking her party at America so essentially, we were at the wrong place,” he wrote.
Claiming not to be “completely incompetent” he explained he had confirmed the party was there, and had received text messages from people already inside behind “the heavily guarded door.”
“We knew they were inside, they were posting pictures on Instagram and they were texting back and forth, so that didn’t make sense,” he said in an interview on Wednesday.
He said they were then told the club was at capacity – despite the line up “of zero people waiting to get in.” To explain this, he claims the doormen told them they were sending people away rather than letting them line up.
“The two friends of ours that got in no more than 5-10 minutes before us must have also been trained ninjas that snuck past your very competent door crew,” he wrote.
“Regardless, the explanations were all adding up to not add up at all and there was no point trying to plead our way into a venue that had a mandate to not let us in.”
Dorka went on to suggest the practice of letting people in who don’t fit a “preferred look” is rampant in the club scene around Toronto, going as far to say that when he was unsuccessfully running a club, his business partners asked him not to wear his turban while tending bar.
“Who wants to party at a place that lets in any old riffraff off the street right? How’s anyone going to feel superior and elite if they’re forced to congregate with the likes of us? So, we apologize for putting your team in that difficult position of having to be creative with their excuses,” he wrote.
The America Restaurant is on the 31st floor of the 65-storey Bay Street tower that opened in 2012. The restaurant opened in 2014 and its website declares proudly that “everyone wants in.”
The restaurant was recently awarded a four-star rating by Forbes Magazine, putting it in the same category of well-known Toronto restaurants including Scaramouche and Splendido.
Dorka sent a copy of his Reddit post to the restaurant’s general manager Eric Effinger, who apologized and thanked him for informing him of his experience in “such detail.”
But while Effinger did apologize, he also maintained the restaurant had in fact been at capacity, saying it was a safety issue.
“Once we hit capacity by law we have to deny new guests from entering the premise. Due to the special location of this venue, we never allow safety to not be present in how we conduct ourselves. I never want to compromise the execution of a safe fire evacuation for everyone on site if an emergency situation occurs,” he wrote.
Effinger did apologize for, what he called, the “lack of hospitality” and said he would be speaking with everyone involved to ensure their “phrasing and explanation” of how they enforce capacity laws is clearer.
Jamil Kamal, the director of risk management for INK Entertainment, echoed the manager’s comments in a statement to Global News.
“At the time that Mr. Dorka and his friends arrived at America on Saturday evening, which was close to 1:00 a.m., the venue was close to capacity and therefore not allowing any walk-in guests, with the exception of the confirmed bottle service reservations and hotel guest list. We were still expecting guests with bottle service reservations at that time. We are always vigilant in maintaining our capacity levels in the interest of public safety.”
Darshan says he got to the restaurant around 12:40 a.m.
Darshan said he’s not angry about being turned away because he’s come to expect it.
“It’s sad in a way, but you don’t really get depressed about it, you just know that ‘ok its how it is,’” he said in an interview.
And Tony Chapman, a Toronto-based marketing expert, said bars and restaurants in Toronto commonly gravitate toward a certain type of person that they think fits their brand.
“This industry is morally corrupt, the survival of the prettiest,” he said. “The young, the beautiful, the fashionable get in, and the other people stand in line hoping they don’t get frostbitten.”
– With files from Angie Seth