Newlyweds April Ayres and Melody Griffiths plan to file a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal over an Aug 1 incident at Saffron Indian Cuisine at 4300 Kingsway in Burnaby.
Ayres claims that she and her wife, who were holding hands, were left waiting for a table, even as patrons who came in after them were seated.
“The woman managing the seating kept telling us that a table would come available for us soon,” Griffiths writes on her LiveJournal page. “Even though she seated a woman who came in after us at a two-seater table, and a single younger guy at a table that seated four that came in even later. Each time she told us that a table would be open up ‘in just a few minutes.'”
Saffron owner Kewal Sandhu describes his restaurant as a queer-friendly establishment. He says he is not aware of that incident and has received no complaints. “That Wednesday was a very busy afternoon,” he says. “Sometimes we get very busy and we don’t see everything.”
Under normal circumstances seating is on a first come, first serve basis, he explains. “We give seating priority to whoever gets there first. Unless, of course they have a reservation; if they don’t have a reservation and other customers have one then they don’t get priority.”
The couple left the establishment before they could get a seat, since Ayres was on her lunch break and had limited time.
Sandhu stresses that sexual orientation has nothing to do with how he treats his customers. “We don’t notice if someone is a couple, friends or whatever. We don’t have time to figure out who they are. To us, they are customers.”
Ayres and Griffiths declined to comment on the matter, except to say they are pursuing the matter through the tribunal and seeking an apology.
They may not have to wait long. “I’m extremely sorry if that happened to them,” says Sandhu. “It’s too bad.”
Thank you for your article highlighting the situation we encountered during our last visit to Vancouver. We would like to comment and clarify our position: My wife April is Australian, and having spent six months in Melbourne last year with her, publicly out as a couple, we experienced nothing even remotely resembling the discrimination we have received while being back in Canada. I have been shocked, embarrassed and, quite frankly, shamed by the behaviour of my fellow British Columbians, from being hollered ‘dykes’ at in the street to receiving poor service in businesses and dirty looks in cafes. I only hope that April’s view of Canada can recover from the tarnish placed upon it by these incidents. Although the apology from Mr. Sandhu is welcomed, it unfortunately does precious little to comfort the pain caused to us by the incident that occurred in his establishment. That we were so blatantly refused service, to the point of having a lone gentleman taken from behind us and seated at a block of empty tables while we were left standing at the front of the queue was the largest single insult I have ever experienced in over a decade of being involved in same-sex relationships. An apology from the owner of the establishment is certainly insufficient to compensate for such damage, and merely attempts to mask the discriminatory actions of his employees. It is the employee in question who needs to give a genuine apology, or be subject to consequence for their actions. Unfortunately I fear that obtaining such satisfaction is unlikely except for in a formal setting, if at all. An obvious message needs to be sent that such discriminatory actions cannot be tolerated in a modern society so that others do not have to face such trauma.Melody Griffiths, Victoria, BC