Birla racism cry: California eatery denies charge, cites law


Members of the prominent Indian business family of the Birlas have accused a California restaurant of racism, to which a managing partner of the Italian eatery told indica News it was only following rules about needing to see ID to serve alcohol.

Ananya Birla, daughter of Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla, tweeted on October 23: “This restaurant @ScopaRestaurant literally threw my family and I, out of their premises. So racist. So sad. You really need to treat your customers right. Very racist. This is not okay.”

In a subsequent tweet, she tagged Antonia Lofaso, the chef of Scopa Italian Roots in Venice, California.

We waited for 3 hours to eat at your restaurant. @chefantonia Your waiter Joshua Silverman was extremely rude to my mother, bordering racist. This isn’t okay,” Ananya, who is a music artist, tweeted.

Her mother and Kumar Mangalam’s wife, Neerja Birla, quote-tweeted Ananya’s post: “Very shocking ..absolutely ridiculous behavior by @ScopaRestaurant. You have no right to treat any of your customers like this.”

Ananya’s brother, Aryaman Birla, tweeted: “I have never experienced anything of this sort. Racism exists and is real. Unbelievable. @ScopaRestaurant”

Contacted by indica News, Pablo Moix, managing partner at Scopa, said the eatery was only following the law.

“The issue was that three guests at the table were unable to verify that they were 21 years old; so for that reason, we could not serve them alcoholic beverages. They had photographs of IDs and passports but, unfortunately, that is not something we can accept,” Moix told this correspondent.

One thing that we have had to police since the day we opened eight years ago is being responsible for alcohol service as an on-sale retailer,” Moix wrote in an email to indica News.

He said the table had five guests, four women and one man, and two of them had IDs on them.

“We asked for ID and three guests did not have them on their person. Unfortunately, we cannot accept photographs of Ids. They are not what the state deems as bona fide. We also cannot take anyone’s word for it including any family member; they need to have a physical ID on them,” Moix wrote.

“The two that were served alcoholic beverages then shared their beverages with guests that we were not able to verify that they were of legal age to consume alcoholic beverages on our premises. We had to advise them more than once that they could not do that, obviously for both very embarrassing,” he added.

“The mother became angry and understandably as we did not want to say no and she did not want to hear the word no. Once anger becomes an abusive situation that’s when we ask guests to politely leave and hopefully come back on a different evening.”

He said thankfully, things “de-escalated in this case, they stayed and finished their meal and complimented both the waiter they had and the quality of the food.”

Moix said: “Our assistant general manager gave the family her card and advised them next time they wished to return to reach out to her directly.”

“They finished their meal, we offered to pay for their meal for the unfortunate interaction, they respectfully declined and insisted on paying the check,” Moix said.

“We are very much looking forward to this family dining with us again, everyone that is 21 years old with an ID. In the United States in 2020 there are actual towns that are dry and no alcohol can be consumed or sold. In the case of the State of California no one can consume alcohol without a bona fide ID,” he said.

He said he understood that everyone is on edge, and everyone is tired of being locked up in their homes.

“Tempers can flare and we that serve the public need to be understanding of that, and turn the other cheek. That being said, when it becomes abusive that is not ok,” he said.

He said he understood the “frustration of being denied a drink,” and said customers in such situations “can take two roads.”

One was, he said, “accept the result and make a point to not do that in the future.”

And the second was “challenge… hoping you can convince someone to take your word for it. That can start nicely saying things like no one will notice, you know me I come in all the time. If that does not work you can now accept this outcome or challenge it further.”

He said it was not nice if phrases like “you know who I am?” were used.

“At this point, people are generally very angry and, in your face, or no longer sitting and sharing their frustration.”

“In this case, option two was applied and further challenged by sharing drinks with guests without IDs. Handing a drink to underaged guests can result in a fine, arrest or suspension or loss of liquor license. So, you understand why we cannot make any exceptions,” Moix said.

Pointing to the tweets from the Birlas, he said: “Unfortunately, we are now dealing with not accepting a choice that is out of our hands. It’s the law plain and simple, but this does not make it okay to mistreat, insult or make fake accusations.”

“It’s, unfortunately, part of doing business like a restaurant, bar, hotel, or anyone that serves alcohol. It can happen on Yelp or any like service or be taken to social media now,” Moix said.

“Anyone can say anything today and it becomes the truth. We like every restaurant in the world are just trying to survive and hopefully see the other side of this pandemic.”

[Photo courtesy: Yahoo search]