Stony Brook Graduate Refused Entry at Harbor Grill For Wearing a Turban
By Kiara Thomas
Stony Brook University graduate Gurvinder Grewal was denied entry at Harbor Grill, formerly known as Schafer’s, in Port Jefferson for wearing a turban early in the morning on Sunday, May 12.
After Grewal had his ID checked by security, the manager refused him to allow him entry in the establishment due a policy barring head covering. Grewal explained that he wore a turban and used it to practice his religion, Sikhism. Headwear is not allowed inside the establishment after 10 p.m., on Fridays and Saturday nights.
“I explained that I just wanted to hang out with some friends for the night and even went to the back of the line to try and explain my situation again a second time, which still did not work,” Grewal said. “I had been to Schafer’s last May without any issues. After telling him that, the manager said it was a new policy.”
Bansri Shah, who was standing behind Grewal, posted on social media that her friend started to record the situation and the manager threatened to kick them out. Shah also said the manager refused to talk to them about what happened because he was “busy.”
Kerris Moore, who was behind Grewal in line, commented on Bansri’s post saying that about 10 minutes after the incident, she saw a man being admitted in wearing a baseball hat.
In a Facebook comment, Harbor Grill said the manager thought Grewal was wearing a “dew rag [sic.] or a stocking cap and not a traditional turban” and that he did not threaten to kick out people who were were attempting to record the situation.
Barbara Ransome, the director of operations for the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, told TBR News Media that the policy was put in place for safety, but not allowing someone to wear a religious garment would “cross over into” their First Amendment rights.
The Mayor of Port Jefferson, Margot Garant, recommended for Grewal to file a report with the police if he felt singled out and the policy was discriminatory.
“I can’t speak on the policy, but I want to assure the student body and faculty at the university that the policy doesn’t reflect the tone of the village,” Garant said. “I’m sorry to hear that happened. We do not condone that behavior.”
Grewal tried filing a police report on May 15, but an officer at the sixth precinct said that what happened was a civil matter and that he would have to contact a civil lawyer or the American Civil Liberties Union. Grewal is currently in contact with a lawyer.
“I appreciated the girls behind me who stood up for me and made the Facebook post,” Grewal said. “To do that for someone you don’t know takes a ton of courage and is really admirable. I just hope that organizations and establishments with strict dress codes understand the importance of religious garments; any person should be allowed to continue practicing their faith at any public place.”
Update on May 23: Kerris Moore’s Facebook comment.
Black World contacted Harbor Grill for a response, and will further update the story.