Race row at city eatery

Clarkes Bar and Dining Room in Bree Street has come under fire for an alleged racist incident which took place at the weekend.

Social media heat has been turned up on a city restaurant over its handling of an incident in which a patron was allegedly called a “common coloured”.

Instead of immediately ejecting the woman accused of making this racist comment, the restaurant has been flambéed for throwing out the victim and her friends and then failing to apologise to them.

The patrons’ posts on Facebook about their encounter have gone viral, and now Clarke’s Bar and Dining Room in Bree Street is seeing a flurry of bad reviews on its Facebook page along with calls for it to be closed.

Clarke’s management have since called for the patrons involved in the incident on Friday December 9 to meet with them to “give feedback”.

One of the patrons, Nicholas Vries, said he had lost all respect for Clarke’s and would not want to meet with the owners yet.

“They have failed to admit they were at fault or put out a sincere apology, just general apologies,” he said.

Mr Vries said on Friday night after watching a show in the city, he and about 12 friends had gone to get something to eat at Hails Pizza, attached to Clarke’s.

It had been around midnight when they had asked for the bill.

“As we were settling it, a random woman sat down at the table. We looked at each other to find out if anyone knew her. I went to stand at the door to speak to a friend but could still see and hear what was happening at the table,” said Mr Vries.

The woman, whom none of the people at the table knew, started insulting them.

According to a Facebook post by Lee Sophia Piedt, one of Mr Vries’s friends, the woman said “she couldn’t believe that we were all coloured at the table”.

Mr Vries said he had asked the woman to leave several times, but she had refused. “The lady then called one of my friends a common coloured and walked away laughing.”

At this point, the group got offended and confronted the woman. “It was only at this point when the bouncers jumped in and protected the lady,” said Mr Vries.

“I grabbed my friends away and tried to calm them down. The bouncer then pushed Lesego (Ramatlhare) and told her to get out.”

Ms Ramathare’s post on Clarke’s Facebook page read: “The bouncer put his hands on me, a woman, a small woman against a big man. He shoved and pushed me while the staff and management watched in support. I have never been treated so horribly simply because of the colour of my skin.”

Mr Vries said he had tried to explain to the bouncers what had happened. “They thought I was stalling, and we all got pushed out without being able to finish any drink or food we were busy with.”

The Capetowner contacted Clarke’s for a response, but they simply issued a general statement while avoiding specific questions.

Clarke’s owner, Lyndall Maunder said: “ We’ve been working internally and communicating with various people in the city on this matter since it happened to try and gain a clearer perspective on what happened.”

She said they would like to meet first with some of the patrons and “continue our work on this issue” before commenting further.

However, responding to Mr Vries’s post on its Facebook page, Clarke’s said they had reviewed CCTV footage and admitted that the events described by the patrons had taken place.

The response the restaurant posted on Facebook said: “As we were closing the restaurant, there was a drunk individual who approached your group, and while you were paying and planning to leave. She was being inappropriate and obnoxious and the waitron decided to call security to remove her from the table. According to your waitron, you handled the situation well.

“Once the security arrived, the woman did not pay attention to his requests to leave and returned to the bar. At this point, things started to escalate, and we suspect that your group had the impression that she was not the issue because she returned to her seat and ignored the security’s requests to leave.

“Our security’s goal had been to remove the obnoxious individual. He was unable to do this, and, as a result, things became more aggressive. Your group was larger, and the security’s response was to first remove the larger group to try and diffuse the situation and then to remove the individual. Before security was able to remove her, the individual got up and left… certainly adding to the impression that we did not view her as the issue.

“We understand that you are holding us accountable for the evening’s outcome, but please do so with regard to poor staff training when handling conflict situations.”

This response drew a lot of flak on social media, and Clarke’s was criticised for not taking responsibility for the incident and not apologising.

They later posted an apology, adding that the establishment was 100 percent against racism.

“We assure you that no actions were made on our behalf out of racism. Our intention was only to try and diffuse the situation, stop it from escalating further and ensure the safety of everyone present.”

However, the patrons who were involved were not impressed.

Mr Vries said: “Even their post where they state what happened on the night makes no sense. How can it be easier to remove 12 people than it is to remove one? How do you stand by and watch a group argue with someone and say they’re handling it well with you getting involved?”

Speaking to the Capetowner, Ms Piedt said: “It’s sad to see that this is still how we, as locals, get treated in our own city. The most disturbing feeling to me is that we will always be looked at as “slaves or less than”. I mean, I was called a ‘common coloured’. This is one lady that said that to me, but how many others are thinking it?

“This is why we can’t move forward in our country, because we have not been recognised or respected as human beings with the same rights as the next person. The apology has no weight. It’s a joke. They showed us who they are and this is why we cannot leave this unresolved.”

While Ms Piedt wanted to report the matter and take it further, Mr Vries said he had no desire to do so at the moment.

Cape Town Tourism CEO Enver Duminy said “isolated incidents such as there” were “disappointing” and did reflect the city’s reputation as “friendly, tolerant destination”.

“Cape Town Tourism strongly condemns racism in all forms . Cape Town is a diverse city with many cultures enjoying our many places of interest and entertainment. We encourage members of the tourism industry and all places frequented by locals and visitors to conduct cultural diversity training and education with their employees, so that every person in our city feels welcome,” he said.