As It Happens

Delhi restaurant that refused to serve 'low class' street kids guilty of discrimination

An upscale restaurant in Delhi is found guilty of discrimination after refusing to serve a group of people that included street kids
The Delhi street children were happy to finally eat lunch at a restaurant after they were refused service at the first place they chose. (facebook/Sonali Shetty)

A restaurant is facing closure after staff refused to serve a woman who tried to buy lunch for a group of hungry street kids in Delhi, India.

The group of street kids were approached by Sonali Shetty, a writer who was in Delhi to celebrate her husband's birthday.  "They just came up to me to sell flowers, I never knew them before," Shetty tells As It Happens host Carol Off.

The group was seated in the restaurant but no one would serve them. (Sonali Shetty)

"We decided when we saw the children that we will be taking them out to lunch."

The children, who were excited to be going to a restaurant selected Shiv Sagar as a place they wanted to eat at. But after they were seated, no one would come to take their order.

Citing their dirty faces, their class and the restaurant's reputation, the manager of Shiv Sagar refused to serve the group. A few patrons of the restaurant tried to argue with the manager asking him why he was behaving in such a manner. Shetty says the manager didn't want this to become a regular occurrence.

Waitstaff can be seen milling around but Sonali Shetty could not get service (facebook/Sonali Shetty)

"He said this is a new fad in the country where people bring street kids to feed them and I am not going to start this at my restaurant because I'm a high profile restaurant."

Incensed, Shetty called the police because she believed the restaurant was being discriminatory and as a result, violated India's constitution.

He said how dare you come to my restaurant and if you come here again, I'll shoot you!-  Sonali Shetty

"Our constitution is a beautiful document which guarantees everyone the right to equality," says Shetty.

The police arrived and tried to reason with the manager but he was defiant. Shetty moved the kids to another restaurant a few doors down where they ended up having a nice lunch together.

Police at the restaurant in Delhi (facebook/Sonali Shetty)

But her fight was not over.

After lunch, the group passed by the first restaurant again and the son of the owner confronted Shetty. 

"He said how dare you come to my restaurant and if you come here again, I'll shoot you! At that point I felt I should sit there and ask for an apology … After being humiliated, I was being abused also," says Shetty.

She sat out front of the restaurant for eight hours, which garnered the attention of the media, which has lead to a magisterial probe. The panel found the restaurant refused to serve them based on "socio-economic status."

"The next step is the restaurant's license should be cancelled," says Shetty.

Shetty also expects a law to be passed that would shut a restaurant down if they discriminate against anyone.

"I'm just doing it for the children because our children are our hope for society."