British Columbia

Indigenous man kicked out of B.C. restaurant over coffee creamers alleges racial profiling

An Indigenous man says he was racially profiled and eventually kicked out by staff at a Ricky’s Restaurant in Nanaimo when they refused to serve his three-year-old daughter coffee creamers.

Brandon Gabriel says he was kicked out of a Ricky's Restaurant after dispute escalated

Brandon Gabriel, right, is a graphic designer in the Vancouver Island city of Nanaimo, B.C. He's pictured with his wife Melinda Bige, and his daughter Jamie. (Submitted by Brandon Gabriel)

Brandon Gabriel says his three-year-old daughter Jamie has a special ritual when it comes to coffee creamers.

"When we go to any restaurant if there's little creamer packets that are sitting on the table she'll open them up and she'll start drinking them." 

He says he never expected the innocent gesture could lead to him getting kicked out of a Vancouver Island Ricky's restaurant without being allowed to finish his meal.

To him the incident is a clear example of racial profiling. "They had made a decision on how they were going to treat me which was separate than how they were going to treat all the other patrons."

The restaurant chain's head office says it's not sure what happened at the Nanaimo, B.C., franchise, but said in a statement that "no racial oriented language or actions by our staff occurred." 

Customers involved in confrontation

Gabriel claims when he asked for a refill on creamers for his daughter at a Ricky's All Day Grill in Nanaimo on Feb. 4, the server refused, citing a restaurant policy that creamers were only to be used for coffee and not for drinking.

"This is something that I've witnessed other children do in other restaurants," he said. "I've never witnessed any staff at any other establishment bothered by this."

Gabriel says a man at the table next to them had his bowl of creamers refilled without question which led him to ask to see the manager because he felt he was being treated unfairly.

He says the manager also refused, even when he offered to pay for the creamers, saying they were a complimentary item and they could not be added to the bill.

The response upset Gabriel, who admits that he became angry and started swearing. The manager told him he had to leave the restaurant.

"I was scolded in front of other customers and I was humiliated," he said. 

He claims an older male customer came up to him and seemed to want to instigate a physical confrontation, shouting at Gabriel that he was "sick of you people always coming in here thinking you own the place."

The situation became so tense that Gabriel quickly left the restaurant with his daughter after paying his bill.

"It took me about 20 minutes to calm down from that," said Gabriel. "I was distraught and so I just sat there and comforted my daughter." 

No policy on creamers, says corporate official

In a phone interview with CBC News, representatives from Ricky's Restaurants corporate office confirmed that they do not have a policy relating to creamer refills.

Stacey Hansson, senior vice-president of Ricky's Group of Family Style Restaurants, claims there are "two very different sides" to the incident, but didn't go into details or dispute any part of Gabriel's version of events. 

She also asserted Ricky's is a family-oriented business and that she was taken aback by the allegation of racial profiling taking place at one of its locations.

"Our franchisee base is very diverse," said Hansson. "We have all kinds of different cultures in the franchises, our employees are of all different cultural backgrounds."

Neither the owner or staff of the Nanaimo restaurant could be reached for comment after multiple attempts by CBC News.

Brandon Gabriel claims he was racially profiled by staff at the Ricky's All Day Grill in north Nanaimo, B.C. (Google Street View)

Hansson says she's been in contact with Gabriel to resolve the issue and the company's statement included an apology "for any miscommunication or misinterpretation of the events." 

"We want to make sure that he's happy and we want to make sure that we communicate what our values are and that this is not something that is in any way shape or form representative of Ricky's."

Gabriel says since the incident, no one has acknowledged what his daughter has gone through.

"That really upsets me more than anything and this whole thing is really upsetting to me because of what my daughter had to endure."

He wants a public apology from Ricky's as well as a full refund for the $47 he paid for breakfast for three people.