An elite French restaurant popular among celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid and Haley Baldwin, is being accused of discriminating against people with Arabic sounding names and women in headscarves, according to Buzzfeed News.
The employees at L’Avenue reportedly have a system in place to deal with such patrons: they don’t take their reservations at all.
According to the four former staffers who have come forward with the appalling allegations, they were also instructed not to entertain tourists from Middle Eastern countries – specifically Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia – either. If a woman wearing veil or hijab showed up, they were told the restaurant was full, even if there were tables available.
Moreover, if someone on the restaurant’s no-serve list managed to reserve a table through online or phone booking, the employees were supposed to tell them their reservation was never recorded, explained the eatery’s former manager. If a customer insisted, the staff would allegedly take them upstairs and seat them on an obscure table so they aren’t visible to most patrons or people outside.
“The restaurant's director, Alexandre Denis, often says he prefers to have two blonde people, beautiful, on the terrace, with two coffees, rather than veiled women, even if they are rich,” a former staffer, identified only as Anais, told BuzzFeed News. “Those, we had to refuse, and every time a hostess took a reservation of a customer with an Arabic name, he asked who had made this reservation and reminded the staffers of their instructions: to refuse them as much as possible by pretending that the restaurant is full.”
The publication also obtained the WhatsApp messages exchanged between L'Avenue’s staff, confirming the restaurant’s racist and seemingly Islamophobic practice.
“Park Hyatt [an upscale Parisian hotel], I told them that tomorrow for lunch we are full!!” read one message. “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.”
Meanwhile, Denis has refuted the claims.
“All cultures, all nationalities come here. There are people from the Middle East, there is everything you want,” he asserted. “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.”
To further investigate the allegations, BuzzFeed News tried to reserve a table at L'Avenue under the name “Ahmed” – a popular Muslim name. Unsurprisingly, they were turned down. Then, the publication attempted to seat a woman in headscarf at the restaurant. Initially, she was told she didn’t have a reservation before finally being allowed to sit upstairs.
According to another former waitress, identified as Flore, even though black people and Asian tourists were allowed at the restaurant, the staffers were told “there couldn’t be too many” of them.
Apparently, this is not the first time the restaurant, owned by prominent French businessman Jean-Louis Costes, has faced such accusations. The report claimed six former servers had previously filed complains about discrimination with French Labor Inspectorate, but it appears the department never took an action.
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