Bar denies Sikh customer because his turban violated dress code: 'I was surprised this happened in such a diverse community'

Gurvinder Grewal of Stony Brook, N.Y., was not allowed inside Harbor Grill in Port Jefferson because of his turban. (Photo: Courtesy of Gurvinder Grewal)
Gurvinder Grewal of Stony Brook, N.Y. was not allowed inside Harbor Grill in Port Jefferson because of his turban, which is worn as part of his Sikh religion. (Photo: Courtesy of Gurvinder Grewal)

A Long Island bar turned away a Sikh customer because his turban resembled a “do-rag” and violated its dress code.

On Saturday night, Gurvinder Grewal was stuck outside the Harbor Grill in Port Jefferson. N.Y., because his turban, which he wears as part of his Sikh faith, broke the establishment’s dress code, according to the New York Post. “Usually, if there’s a policy on headwear, businesses make religious exceptions,” Grewal, 23, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I was surprised this happened in such a diverse community.”

The Stony Brook University graduate, who works as a City M.D. scribe and a volunteer EMT, says the Harbor Grill is a popular hang-out spot. “I’ve gone there wearing my turban before, but I was told this is a ‘new policy,’” he says.

According to Grewal, who came with friends, a security guard and a manager were checking identification outside and he was allegedly told, “Sorry, we can’t allow you in with the head covering.” Grewal says the guard told the manager the turban was a religious covering and the manager said if the owner saw Grewal on the security cameras, there would be trouble.

Grewal got in line again to allow other customers inside. “I wanted to collect my thoughts and try to reason with them,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “But they were firm. I thought that was ridiculous. I just left.”

But someone re-posted a Snapchat message from a witness standing in line to the restaurant’s Facebook page. “Honestly, I never expected this type of action taken from a town like Port Jefferson considering the racial diversity in a college town right next door…” wrote the Snapchat user, who later deleted her post.

The bar replied, writing” “Harbor Grill embraces people of all races and religions, and we do not discriminate against anyone for their creed or color. We sincerely apologize for any distress that this incident may have caused. Please know that our weekend dress code policy is in place for the safety of all of our patrons. Anyone wearing any type of hat is welcome during normal restaurant hours; however, on Friday and Saturday nights after 10:00PM (after the kitchen is closed and there is a DJ and dancing), we do not allow hats or headwear in order to more capably identify people inside the establishment.”

The statement continued: “This policy, posted at the entrance, applies to everyone; to pick and choose who can and cannot wear headwear of any type would truly be discriminatory against anyone else attempting to wear a hat inside. We are supplying a photo of the subject person, whose face is blacked out for their privacy, wearing what would be more widely perceived as the slang term ‘dew rag’ or a ‘stocking cap’ and not a traditional turban. As part of our ongoing internal investigation, the night bar manager in question insists that he explained the dress code in great detail two times to the subject person. Also, the subject person was refused entry and not ‘kicked out’ as claimed in the original post. The claims of being threatened to be kicked out for attempting to video the interaction according to the manager are inaccurate in that it was other people (not the subject person) coming to the door afterward, seemingly attempting to coerce some sort of controversial response. Again, to reiterate, we welcome and appreciate all people coming to our establishment irrespective of any race or religion.”

On Thursday, Harbor Grill’s Facebook post was deleted and an evening manager did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s interview request.

Grewal says when Margot Garant, the mayor of Port Jefferson, read the Facebook post, she wrote about her concern. So Grewal says gave the mayor a call. Garant did not return an interview request from Yahoo Lifestyle, but Grewal says she offered support and advice.

“I was not allowed to practice my religion,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It’s not justifiable.”

Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for nonstop inspiration delivered fresh to your feed, every day.