Shark Club Langley ordered to pay $10,000 each to three spurned customers of South Asian descent
A Langley sports bar has been whacked for discrimination by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.
In a 55-page ruling, tribunal member Norman Trerise ordered Shark Club Langley, Limited Partnership to pay three customers—Surinderjit Rai, Manjit Gill, and Manjinder Gill—$10,000 each "for injury to dignity and self-respect", plus post-judgment interest.
It came after they complained that they were denied service on the basis of race, colour, and ancestry, which violates the Human Rights Code.
They wanted to attend a party celebrating the graduation of their friend, Minnie Senghera, in a registered-nurses program.
"This case presents fundamental credibility issues between witnesses for the Complainants and witnesses for the Respondent," Trerise wrote in his ruling. "The Complainants’ witnesses gave evidence that they were prevented from entering the Shark Club, that they were told it was because they were late for their reservation, and that they were never asked for their identification documents. They testified that Caucasians were allowed admittance while they were barred from entering."
The Shark Club argued that Rai failed to provide identification and if he had done this, the trio would have been allowed onto the premises.
The Shark Club is a member of BarWatch—a program requiring patrons to present identification to be scanned.
Manjinder Singh Gill testified that he saw Caucasians entering while his party had to wait outside. He also alleged that he was told he had to have a ticket to enter, whereas he claimed that Caucasians in line said that they didn't have to buy tickets.
His wife Manjit said that they arrived at 9:15 p.m. on December 9, 2011, only to be told that they were late and everyone needed tickets to attend "the Christmas party" taking place.
"Ms. Gill testified that while all of this was going on, people were walking in and that they were Caucasian," Trerise wrote. "The group asked 'why are they getting in'. The response was 'they have reservations' or 'they have tickets'."
She claimed that when Rai asked for the name of the doorman, he was told "Andrew Marcus". And when Rai took his photo, she alleged that he put him in a headlock, taking him to the ground violently.
Rai told a similar story and admitted under cross-examination that none of the Shark Club employees issued racial slurs. He claimed that he had identification with him in a bag.
They contacted the Sanhera party who were inside, and they all left the restaurant.
The general manager, Brent Chow, testified that everyone must have identification to enter. He acknowledged that the doorman who identified himself as Andrew Marcus was actually named Andrew Schmah.
He also said that the only people who were entering the restaurant at that time had tickets to attend a fundraiser.
"Mr. Chow denied that he advised the doormen to not allow entry because of race," Trerise wrote in his ruling. "He suggested that if such denial were to occur, he would have terminated the doormen immediately. He said he would take that very personally."
Schmah said that he underwent "extensive training" when he joined the Shark Club. He also testified that he had a "fine" relationship with Indo-Canadians, including a good friend who worked with him in security.
Moreover, he claimed that 30 to 40 percent of the clientele at the restaurant were Indo-Canadians, and he only made distinctions on the basis of "gang clothing and belligerence", not race.
"Mr. Schmah testified that he has used physical force on patrons when the patron turned aggressive when denied entrance," Trerise stated in the ruling. "He testified that he had to physically remove a patron from the premises perhaps once a month."
Schmah alleged in a statutory declaration that Rai had threatened to go to the media and place photos on the Internet. But at the hearing, Schmah testified that a threat was made that Rai would get a gun—words that never appeared in the declaration.
However, Schmah never contacted the police and never claimed that anyone was going to kill him.
Chow, however, alleged that a member of the group had indeed threatened to kill Schmah.
Trerise ruled that Chow's evidence was "internally inconsistent and inconsistent with the evidence of every other witness".
"Similar concerns exist with respect to the evidence of Andrew Schmah," Trerise wrote later in the decision.
For example, Schmah claimed that he had never been charged with a criminal offence prior to that which arose out of this incident. But Schmah admitted in response to one of Trerise's questions that he had been charged with another assault afterward.
"He further testified, in his direct evidence, that the Rai Group was cursing, making threats, calling him a racist and yelling. On cross-examination he testified that only Mr. Rai was harassing him."
Trerise also pointed out Schmah's contradictory evidence regarding whether or not Rai had threatened to get a gun and shoot him—and the fact that this wasn't mentioned in the statutory declaration.
As a result, the tribunal member gave "no credence" to Schmah's evidence or that of any other Shark Club staff, and preferred the evidence of the complainants.
Trerise also concluded that none of the complainants had consumed alcohol when they arrived at the Shark Club.
"I also consider it unlikely that, if the sole issue was Mr. Rai’s identification, as asserted by the Shark Club, that Mr. Rai and the other members of his party would engage in the antics described by the Shark Club witnesses," Trerise stated in the ruling. "Mr. Rai undisputedly lived approximately five to ten minutes by vehicle from the Shark Club and could easily have returned home and picked up his identification if that was the issue that prevented his group from entering the Shark Club."