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Dealing With Discrimination in Bars and Restaurants

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 27 Mar 2018 | comments*Discuss
Discrimination Restaurants Bars

Although discrimination laws exist in the UK this does not mean discrimination has been eliminated. Discrimination is still practised in many bars, restaurants and businesses across the UK.

Discrimination in UK Bars and Restaurants

It is against the law to discriminate against or treat someone unfairly on the basis of prejudice. But this is more common than most people think and does occur in bars, restaurants and other businesses in the UK. Many discrimination stories have made major headlines, especially when the discrimination comes from well known businesses. Discrimination can come in the form of treating someone unfairly because of gender, sexuality, religious beliefs, race and disability. Discrimination should never be tolerated and speaking out will help to make a difference.

Discrimination Issues in the Press

The press are never slow to bring discrimination issues to the public’s attention. Discriminatory practices that have hit the headlines in the past have included:

  • A restaurant refusing to admit a visually impaired person accompanied by a guide dog
  • A well known pizza restaurant refusing to serve a group of gay men
  • An East London pub displaying a sign that said ‘no travellers’ was reported to the Human Rights Commission
  • A disabled customer was forced to conduct banking business in the street due to lack of disabled access
  • A mother was forced to quit her job because she was told by bosses that her disabled child was always sick
  • An atheist teacher working at a Catholic school was prevented from applying for promotion due to religious beliefs
  • A gay couple refused lodging at a bed and breakfast due to the owner’s religious beliefs

Dealing With Discrimination in the UK

No one should have to tolerate discrimination regardless of where it occurs. When discrimination occurs in pubs, restaurants or any other type of business it can be embarrassing and against the law. There are a number of ways to deal with discrimination and speaking to the management can be the first step. In many cases the management or owners will not be aware that this type of discrimination is happening. Complaining informally may result in the management taking action against their staff to prevent this happening again.

Discrimination and Making a Formal Complaint

If making an informal complaint to the management does not produce satisfactory results more formal measures may be required. This can mean making a formal complaint in writing to the business. Every business should have a complaints procedure, if not, the complaint should be made in writing to the business owner. Complaint letters should include the date, time and place of the incident and an outline of what actually happened. The names of the people involved should also be included as well as the possible solution to the incident.

Complaining to a Ombudsmen over Discrimination

Certain businesses have regulatory bodies and ombudsmen that discrimination complaints can be taken to. Ombudsmen and regulatory bodies are in place to ensure that standards of service are upheld within businesses. Complaining to these bodies can be a way of having the matter investigated and stopping this discrimination from happening again. This manner of complaint will not usually lead to any type of compensation.

Taking the Discrimination Issue to the Next Stage

If the formal complaint does not bring satisfactory results then the last resort would be court action. This could mean bringing a claim to a county or sheriff court. This action is usually taken with the intention of claiming compensation over the discrimination issue. This type of action does have a time limit, which is usually six months from when the incident took place. Legal advice should always be taken and this can be an expensive route. If the claim is for more than £5000 and the defendant loses they may have to pay the legal costs of the company they are fighting against.

Anyone who has been discriminated against should never think they are causing a fuss when complaining. Anti discrimination laws were set in place to stop people from discriminating against others because of their own prejudices. Discrimination is a serious offence that can cause much misery for the person being discriminated against. More information on discrimination in the UK can be found at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

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I entered a McDonald's with my two daughters and headed for the disabled toilet. I was told rudely that the ladies was upstairs. I asked the employee if this was in fact a disabled toilet and she said yes. I couldn't get my radar key to work so I struggled back out and asked the employee if the radar keys worked there. She abruptly said "theres someone in there" while giving me a dirty look. If I had walked upstairs to the ladies at that point I would have wet myself.Eventually a man with a walking stick came out of the toilet and I went in. When I came out I said as politely as possible that she shouldn't assume a person is not disabled because they have no wheelchair or walking aid. I was expecting an apology but she just smirked at me and walked off. To make matters worse the girls had already ordered the food and I had to struggle upstairs as the lift was out of order. I am registered disabled. A tumour destroyed my bladder leaving me in constant pain and in need of a toilet every 15 to 20minutes. I feel this employee treated me unfairly and with bias because she assumed I am a liar. I ended up upset and now feel that i cant use the disabled toilets anywhete unless in my wheelchair.What should I do?
Shazz - 9-Jan-18 @ 2:46 PM
I was in a bar in Heywood Greater Manchester area and l was witnessing a barman being discriminated against because he is Scottish giving it the old jock talk. I could see this was actually effecting the barman, but he kept a cheerful face as you have to in this line of work usually. Also there was a young man who was Scottish having a drink with friends in the same bar and this " Comedian " made a joke about if he had his passport ready basically suggesting that Scots would be leaving England through brexit. Personally I have witnessed for years the discrimation of Scots that no other nationality take from English people. There isn't enough getting done to change this obvious bigot like attitude in England.
Nanthy - 16-Aug-17 @ 1:39 PM
Dave - Your Question:
Called into a restaurant in Hull last night. My wife asked for a table for two. The young girl on the front desk refused to let us in because she said my wife had had to much to drink and would not serve us. My wife may have had a drink but she was not Drunk. She had earlier in the year had a Brain hemorage which sa made her speech a little bit sluggish so she sometimes appears to be drunk. I would class this a slight disability.

Our Response:
Write to the restaurant HQ with a formal complaint explaining about your wife's health and requesting that they educate their staff to be more aware of this kind of thing.
CivilRightsMovement - 19-May-17 @ 11:48 AM
Called into a restaurant in Hull last night. My wife asked for a table for two. The young girl on the front desk refused to let us in because she said my wife had had to much to drink and would not serve us. My wife may have had a drink but she was not Drunk. She had earlier in the year had a Brain hemorage which sa made her speech a little bit sluggish so she sometimes appears to be drunk. I would class this a slight disability.
Dave - 18-May-17 @ 8:54 AM
I was asked to leave a pub when the barman said I was upsetting the customers..I was just talking about my problems..I suffer with schizophrenia.. He said that I was annoying and so was my dog
Lisa - 19-Mar-17 @ 3:56 PM
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