Same sex couples wanting to ring in the New Year with a bang are in for a rude shock. Not only are high-end bars and nightclubs turning them away, they are actively stating that they will only accept heterosexual couples.
A Mumbai-based adman discovered this to this shock when he made plans to have dinner with his partner of three years. He hit what he called “a homophobic block” when he went to Shiro—a high-end Central Mumbai restobar-club—to make a booking but was categorically told the place would only accept heterosexual couples.
“I can understand that they want couples, but refusal for same-sex couples is discriminatory. We live barely two blocks away and this was ideally suited but we have to now look elsewhere,” he said.
Posing as a gay man, DNA called up the reservations desk at Shiro to make a booking. Sounding commiserate, the woman staffer at Shiro said: “We have orders from the management to only allow ‘husband and wife type (sic) couples’. We have to go by what we’re told.”
It wasn’t just Shiro. DNA then visited the Bar Stock Exchange where the staff not only said gay couples were unwelcome but also provided some free advice. “There are special gay parties. Why don’t you try going there,” a staffer said. Insistence however saw this writer being directed to the Four Seasons. “They allow that sort of thing.”
Staff at both Four Seasons’ restaurants—San Qi and Aer were indeed friendly and open to the idea of same-sex couples. One Amit (he refused to divulge his full name) told DNA, “At Four Seasons we never discriminate.
We’re open to the idea of anyone who wants to be our guest to come over. In order that people aren’t sent back disappointed we only encourage booking early.”
A similar response came from Khar’s Olive Bar & Kitchen, Sahara Star and even the happening Pirates Of The Kitchen in far Thane. The owner of the latter, Hira Bulani asked, “When the world of hospitality across the globe is reaping the benefits of the pink dollar/rupee why shouldn’t we? Don’t forget these are double income couples with no children are inclined to spend a lot.”
If this can happen in India’s most gay-friendly city of Mumbai one can only imagine what happens in Delhi and NCR. Popular haunts like Summer House Cafe, Soi 7, Kittu Su, Social and Rasta, have already designed packages for the New Year’s weekend. All of these places welcome single women. But some of them seem to have a problem with men even if they come as a couple.
“We only allow couples; and single men are allowed only when their profiles are thoroughly checked,” says Vikas a staffer at Summer House Cafe. Hauz Khas’s Rasta, too, has restrictions on the entry of men. “We do not allow in men in pairs or singly. They can only come in unless they come in with a couple or are in a group,” says Mohan another staffer at Rasta.
But the most categorical response came from Gurgaon-based pub and brewery. According to Ramesh, a staffer at Soi7, says the pub reserves entry of stags to prevent incidents of hooliganism. “We have to ensure that local hooligans do not walk in the establishment and create a scene after drinking,” Asked on the issue of gay couples, Ramesh added that the resturant’s policy was to only admit heterosexual couples.
With a large number of restaurants and bars closed to the gay community, private parties, especially in the NCR region is where the community looks to enjoy themselves. Organised by someone in the community, most of these parties take place in reputed clubs, but as private members’ events.
Commenting on the issue, a member of the Delhi Queer Pride Committee said that while the community recognises that women’s safety was a grave concern, restaurants should not use it as an issue to discriminate against gay couples. “Of course, a woman’s safety is more important. But, it is important to find a balance between not discriminating against one community, and ensuring that no incidents take place,” he said.
In Mumbai, LGBTQI equal rights activist Harish Iyer was even more scathing. “I know there are lots of events and parties organised by the community too but why can’t I party with everyone else just because of my sexual orientation?”
Iyer recounted his own experience when he tried to visit the popular watering hole Bar Stock Exchange at Mumbai’s Lower Parel with his male friend two days ago. “They simply wouldn’t let us in saying it was against rules. When I pointed out how it said prominently that entry was for couples only and we were one, they refused to budge.”
He remembers giving them an earful. “Unlike popular perception, the law of the land is still not against homosexuality, just anal sex. So why should these joints act stuck up? It’s not like I’m asking to drink/eat for free.”