Pune: City police have sought a legal opinion on whether 'dress code' can be enforced as a rule to keep entry restrictions at a restaurant or bar, after a group of city-based youths alleged discrimination against them as they were not allowed to enter a restaurant because they were wearing slippers and shorts. The restaurant has denied these charges and made it clear that rules about dress code have been displayed at the entrance itself and those rules apply to all customers.
The said incident took place at Agent Jack's Bar in ICC Tower on Senapati Bapat Road on Tuesday. The owner Goldie Narang, however, stated that the rules have been made in order to maintain the standard of the bar and ensure the comfort of the existing customers.
Narrating the incident, Dr Ajit Wadikar, a filmmaker and one of the six complainants said, “My house is at a distance of around five minutes from the restaurant. We all were at my place till late reading the script, and decided to go there as it was the nearest restaurant according to Google. However, we were stopped in the lobby stating that two of us were wearing shorts and slippers, which was against the rules of the place. We protested and called the police. When the bar manager refused to listen to the police also, we were advised to file a complaint.”
In the police complaint filed at the Chatushrungi police station, the complainants alleged that it kind of behaviour is unconstitutional, and is compromising their fundamental rights. While an FIR was not filed for the same, the police took a written complaint and said that FIR could only be filed after an enquiry.
Senior Police Inspector Dayanand Dhome, in-charge of Chatushrungi police station, told Sakal Times, “We have received a complaint in this regard and are investigating the case. We are also taking a legal opinion about the further course of action. As of now, legal action can not be taken against the bar as the management has already put up a board specifying the rules and regulations at the entrance. They have not denied entry on the basis of class, caste, creed, gender or religion, so there can't be an FIR against the outlet. The complainants can also approach the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and other bodies who have given the necessary permits to run the outlet."
Aseem Tribhuvan who was also a part of the group said that we feel like it's a class discrimination. “Because we didn't look like we belong to a particular class, we were not allowed to enter. It is like they have decided that only a particular class of customers can enter the bar,” he stated.
Reacting to the issue, Narang said, “According to our rules displayed on a board at the entry point, we didn't allow them in. We have a 'different' set of guests who come in, and so, we have set up rules where the guests we have would feel comfortable. The six people came to the bar at around 11:30 pm, and then we didn't find them in the dress code that they should have been in. If tomorrow they come dressed in full pants and shoes, we will definitely allow them.”
Narang also said that the rules have been made because of some bad past experiences that the owners have had. “In the past, we have seen that people come wearing slippers, and they sit folding their legs up on the chairs and sofa. This doesn't look good to the other guests who have come with their families who are uncomfortable. And after they have had a couple of drinks down, they are offended when we tell them to take their legs down. And because of this, we have made the rules,” he added.
Wadikar also pointed out that there were girls wearing shorts and slippers inside the bar, and this is certainly discrimination on the basis of sex.
The rule written on a board outside the bar states that 'Guests wearing slippers, shorts, track pants, will not be allowed. All the guests are requested to dress appropriately.' Interestingly, while the rule uses the word 'guests', without stating male or female, the photographs posted by the customers on social media show that women dressed in shorts are allowed entry in the bar, while it is just the men who are prohibited.
While this incident has become viral in social media, it's not one of its kind. Many big restaurants and bars in Pune have such rules and allow people dressed only in a particular way that they consider 'appropriate' to enter. However, celebrities, particularly actors and actresses, can be spotted at these same places, in the so-called 'inappropriate' attire.
Speaking about the issue, Advocate Vijayalaxmi Khopade said, “The Bombay Police Act has defined 'public places', and as far as these kinds of places are concerned, they are not covered under the Act. And therefore they are at the free will to frame their own rules and policies as they have their own market to target. Many clubs and hotels in India as well as internationally have a certain dress code and they also have a certain conduct that needs to be followed, it may be with respect to serving alcohol to people under a certain age, wearing a certain kind of clothing in a certain way, etc. As far as Constitution is concerned, no right is unlimited, there are always restrictions upon it. I don't personally feel that Agent Jack's Bar did anything wrong.” She further added, “Another point of view to this could be that these were a bunch of grown men, who probably for the first time in their lives, were denied entry somewhere. So a privileged class of Indian men were denied an entry, and I think they took that on their ego.”