Swanky Paris restaurant 'refuses bookings to Arabs and sits ugly diners upstairs'

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Swanky Paris restaurant 'refuses bookings to Arabs and sits ugly diners upstairs'
Photo: AFP

The chic Paris restaurant L'Avenue might be renowned for its A-list guests like Kim Kardashian, but an investigation has claimed it systematically refuses bookings for "Arabs, women wearing the veil as well as overweight and ugly diners". The restaurant denies the accusations.


L'Avenue, on Avenue Montaigne near the famous Champs Elysees avenue in the capital's chic 16th arrondissement boasts Rihanna and Kim Kardashian among its clientele.

But it systematically refuses bookings from people with Arabic-sounding names, women in headscarfs and people from a number of Middle-Eastern countries, a Buzzfeed investigation has claimed.

The restaurant's management trains staff never to take a booking from people with a name that 'sounds Arabic' or from tourists from the Middle-East, specifically Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, according to the online news site.

Women wearing headscarves are also refused entry on account that the restaurant is full, even if it isn't. And anyone who is generally either 'old, ugly, fat or an Asian tourist' is relegated to the first floor, out of sight, the shocking report claims.

Buzzfeed interwieved a number of waitresses who said these racist practices were still in place.

"The director, Alexandre Denis, often said he prefers to have two beautiful blond girls on the terrace, rather that women wearing headscarves, even if they have a lot of money," one waitress who worked at l'Avenue for over ten years said.

"We were asked to refuse those ones, and each time a hostess took a booking from a customer with an Arabic name, he would ask who was responsible and repeat the instruction that we should refuse them as much as possible by saying that the restaurant is full," she told Buzzfeed.




In France, it is forbidden to refuse to sell a product or a service to someone and anyone one who does this in a public place in a way that is discriminating, can face up to five years in prison and a 75 000 euros fine.

In Febuary, a number of former staff from L'Avenue restaurant - which is one of several trendy upmarket 'Café Costes' restaurants in Paris owned by brothers French brothers Gilbert and Jean-Louis Costes - who were shocked by the racist practices they were asked to enforce, sent an anonymous letter to French Labour Inspectorate (Inspection de Travail) to denounce the practices.

"If there was a name that sounded Arabic, you can be sure that the customer was refused entry to the restaurant. This is an unacceptable case of racism and discrimination," the letter deplored.

Interviewed by Buzzfeed earlier this month, the restaurant's director Alexandre Denis denied all of these accusations.  

"All cultures, all nationalities come here," Denis told Buzzfeed. "There are people from the Middle East, there is everything you want," he said. "If you want to denounce us as racist people, that's... We'll manage as much as we can, but that's not it. ... I can say something, but I do not know how the chicks [sic] will interpret it. ... What is certain is that I never gave instructions to refuse customers."

Buzzfeed however said it studied WhatsApp messages between L'Avenue staff, dating back to the beginning of the year, that it says confirms the discriminatory rules in place.

"Park Hyatt [a Parisian hotel], I told them that tomorrow for lunch we are full !!" one message reads. "They are pushing for two [people] tomorrow afternoon in the name of Al Saoud, be careful not to say yes if they ask for a reservation for 4 to another name, otherwise they will know that we're not full. They said they would call back tomorrow, so be careful. Thank you girls."

This is not the first time a Costes restaurant has provoked controversy over its policy of picking and choosing certain diners.

In 2013, another investigation revealed that the upmarket Georges restaurant in the Pompidou centre in Paris asked staff to seat 'beautiful people' in the front, and relegate 'ugly' people to the back.

The policy was revealed by a former hostess at a chic Parisian restaurant who claimed that her bosses had a policy of seating “beautiful people” in view of passersby, while keeping less attractive diners hidden.

The former hostess at the Georges in the world-famous Pompidou Centre, told print-only French satirical and investigative newspaper Le Canard Enchainé that her bosses enforced a policy of seating “handsome and beautiful” customers by the front of the establishment, and keeping ugly ones hidden away.

Far from keeping the looks-based discrimination hidden, Gilbert Costes was proud of it, she claimed, personally coming to the restaurant Georges to emphasise the importance of the policy to staff.



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