Sikh Denied Entry Over Turban: Restaurant Apologizes

December 5, 2006

Source: Sikh Sangat News/SALDEF

On December 1, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) received a formal apology from the Richbrau Brewing Co. restaurant in Richmond, VA for denying Mr. Hansdip Singh Bindra entry to the restaurant with his turban.

On November 24, 2006, Mr. Bindra, a member of the Sikh faith, sought entry to the popular restaurant in Richmond with members of his extended family. Mr. Bindra was denied entry due to the restaurant’s “no hats” policy. Mr. Bindra attempted to explain that he was not wearing a “hat,” but rather a turban, a mandated religious article of faith for Sikhs. “There were all sorts of people there, and yet I was being singled out solely because of the way I looked”, said Bindra. “I wear a turban everyday as a Sikh, it’s who I am.”

In the apology letter addressed to Mr. Bindra, Michael Byrne, Director of Operations at the Richbrau restaurant noted: “It is with this letter that I would like to extend to you an apology for our doorman enforcing the “no headgear policy” literally.” Mr. Byrne continued, “I have contacted the Richmond media and reaffirmed our policy of the traditional headgear policy exception to our staff. I trust you will feel welcome on your next visit to Richbrau Brewing Co.”

After being contacted by Mr. Bindra late on November 25, 2006, SALDEF immediately wrote a letter to Mr. Byrne explaining that, “[a] policy allowing for religious accommodation would not permit patrons to circumvent the policy by claiming religious significance for baseball caps, bandanas and other such articles of clothing. A Sikh turban, a Jewish Yarmulke, and a Muslim hijab are all federally protected religious articles of faith and, as such, are allowed to be worn by individuals in all circumstances.”

“I knew I could count on SALDEF’s staff to ensure the ‘no-hats’ policy was corrected to provide an exception for the Sikh turban,” said Bindra. “I am proud to have worked with such a great organization, and am satisfied with the formal written apology.”