As most of you who reside in Dubai must know ( and for those of you that do not) it is home to a plethora of fun nightclubs and bars that offer not only a wide variety of unique cocktails, but musical genres to serve all fancies. That being said, the door policies are quite another issue all together.
Having lived in the U.A.E for twenty-three years, I can firmly say that I am not a stranger to the racial biases that exist in the region. They are harmful, unnecessary and counterproductive to the growth of what is otherwise a booming nation. This morning, before I wrote this long overdue article, I was on the job hunt as usual, and came across yet another posting where the candidacy requirements specifically stated the following Kidswear Designer
Nationality : Only western Expats
Turkish,Spanish, French, British, Russian or any other western Expats.
Can any of you who are reading this tell me that job postings such as the above are not completely isolating and segregating people of colour, while demeaning them and depriving them of the same opportunities? To deny it would be fruitless, since you can google jobs in the UAE and see numerous faceless employer requests all demanding the same thing; Western expats only. Now, how does this relate to the clubs in Dubai? I’m getting there.
Bouncers of nearly all the clubs in Dubai are of African descent with the occasional Russian or British hostess at the door. These employees have been hired specifically to monitor who is deemed unacceptable to enter the premises under the clubs strict ‘guidelines’ and in the case of bouncers, to stop any troublesome individuals from creating aggravating situations whilst on the premises. However, these ‘strict guidelines’ don’t seem to be as enforced as much on our Caucasian brethren as on the minority ethnic communities, such as myself.
This was proven more so when on the chilly evening of January the 10th, myself and four friends decided to visit the bar called Stables, Dubai. Now, keep in mind I’ve frequented this bar when it opened its doors years earlier, and at the time it had the same warm, welcoming vibe as hotspots like Irish Village; a place known for its friendly demeanour. However, nightclubs and bars do differ in terms of clientele, and The Stables overtime, became a place that was a hybrid; where live music and a rodeo-style mechanical bull meant a wild crowd and a good time. Suffice to say, at this stage, the scene in particular was not for me. But, when with friends, we tend to overlook our various preferences. On this particular occasion I was wearing the outfit below, Bershka track-inspired trousers, H&M leather jacket and a merino wool sweater paired with Christian Louboutin shoes. By all requirements, one would think this was appropriate attire for a bar where the dress code allows cargo shorts, as pictured on the giant banner that stands on the steps right by its entrance. On trying to enter the bar with my friends (and for the purpose of this article I shall mention nationalities: Local, Filipino, Sri Lankan and American) I was denied entry. Now, my American friend, Michael was wearing sports leggings, Yeezy’s and a t-shirt paired with a varsity jacket while my other friend Mohammed, was in Camouflage trousers and long sleeved shirt, paired with a Louis Vuitton satchel.
On trying to enter the bouncers stepped in front of us and said, ‘this is not smart casual’-primarily to me, all the while ignoring a group of Caucasians that breezed out in cargo shorts. So, for the next five-ten minutes we are standing there trying to convince these two bouncers that, I am not wearing track pants and when it became clear that we were making no progress with them, we asked to speak to the manager on shift; Phil. Who was presumably British, walked out for two minutes, looked me up and down, said ‘sorry-those are track pants’ and then without a second word, and without ushering me aside or dealing with us in a manner that befits anyone in the hospitality trade walked away. Leaving me at the door with my friends. But the real kicker is the fact the bouncers and the manager seemed to have no problem with the ensemble of my American friend, Michael. Despite his sports leggings and trainers, he seemed to be included in the invisible unspoken rules of Dubai’s hotspots, which is that their door policies only rarely apply to Westerns or Europeans. Given what the situation was like, I instantly wrote a Zomato review on my terrible experience and took to social media, in order to truly gage why I was denied entry into this establishment.
The next day, I received a phone call from the manager Chris, who explained to me multiple times that Stables is not a racist organization, and that he has no idea why I was denied entry based on the pictures of my outfit (which I sent in an email the morning after) between his profuse (and appreciated) apologies, I enquired if it would be possible to meet to discuss the issue further. Because in this day and age of social media, an email and phone call can only achieve so much. I was on a mission, to decipher what truly transpired that night, especially considering my outfit clearly wasn’t the issue.
Accompanying me on this meeting were Michael and Mohammed, both of whom validated the points that were discussed openly and honestly during our meeting with Phil and Jeff, both British whose spouses I learnt, were Indonesian and Filipino, attesting ( according to them) to their lack of racial-biases. The underlying note seemed to be that the bouncers at the door, are not aware of what’s in fashion, and therefore denied me entry based on their understanding of ‘fashion-trends’, however the bouncer that night had coherently told Michael, ‘you’re alright because you’re in Yeezy’s’. Thus, voiding the no-sense of fashion excuse. In the end, we left the meeting having established firmly that we hoped moving forward no other person of colour experiences the same inexcusable treatment that I was shown that night and that if this occurrence was truly due to an oversight, due to the lack of a hostess at the door, that it was rectified immediately. And I greatly appreciated the management’s acknowledgement of this.
A day after this meeting, I received the following email from Zomato, explaining why they could no longer allow my review to remain. Keep in mind that Chris had explained that a primary reason he was called to attention was due to my Zomato review, which had called out the people responsible for the occurrences of that night. Zomato explains that such reviews aren’t allowed on their platform as showcased in the quote below
‘As per our guidelines, your review is a comment on their operational policy. It talks of a business and management decision that a restaurant has chosen to follow, hence we cannot allow for opinions on their internal policies.’ – Zomato Neutrality Team
I find it supremely distressing that a website such as Zomato, which has thousands of visitors opting to dine at venues- based solely on the accounts and experiences of other diners, is using their ‘guidelines’ as an excuse to remove what is otherwise a very legitimate commentary on the treatment one might get when trying to pop in to The Stables, Dubai or any other venue for that matter. Since my social media tags, screen-shots and recordings went live, I have had countless messages from people of colour saying they too have experienced the same if not worse treatment from several high-profile establishments. In fact many have been denied tables or entry, while groups of Europeans/Westerners behind them have been ushered in.
This article is to promote awareness of what is happening, and how we can better address the issue. This article is not about inciting hate. It is about trying to negate the lack of certain laws that have created a sense of cultural insensitivity. Stemming from seemingly minor postings such as jobs that only require the faired-skinned. As we approach 2020, and the Middle East gears up to be on the worlds stage, it is imperative that we stand as a united front, and not as one that is segregated and classified as ‘less than’ or ‘better than’ due to our race. As this article goes live, I will also be writing to each establishment to enquire what their various door policies are to insure that moving forward, no establishment can claim lack of responsibility for their actions that are negating the progress of this otherwise wonderful and vibrant city.