A group of three black cyclists say they were turned away from a Welsh pub just minutes before a group of white men were allowed inside to sit down. Julian Konten believes he and his two friends Dale Miller and Chris Harper were turned away from the Captain's Wife pub in Sully because of the way they looked and said the incident had left him stripped of his "self-respect and dignity". Mr Konten said he and two friends had stopped off at the pub, just a few miles outside of Cardiff, on Sunday to see if there was space for a drink but were told it was fully booked.
Three cyclists (left to right) Julian Konten, Dale Miller and Chris Harper say they were turned away from the Captain's Wife. Image credit: Julian Konten/Wales Online
As they left disappointed, two white men approached the busy pub also looking for a table. The cyclists told the men that the pub was fully booked and no tables were available, and the five men walked away together.
But Mr Konten said he suggested to the two men in the other group that they could always ask again and so they disappeared into the pub. To the three friends' surprise, the two men never returned.
Mr Konten, a teacher at Willows High School in Tremorfa, said: "To our surprise the two white males never came back out. So the three of us went back in only to see the two white males seated at a table for four people.
"I asked the front of house why he didn't offer that table to us and why he was treating us less favourably? His reply was: 'Due to social distancing laws they could only sit two people at a table with four seats because it would be too close to the table opposite'.
"I informed him he was being racist and discriminating us for no other reason other than our race and ethnicity. He dismissed that claim."
Mr Konten said he told the staff member that he believed the group of friends had been turned away based on their "characteristics".
"I told him: 'You subconsciously made the decision not to allow us to come into the pub'. I again asked him why he had not offered us another seat and told him he was demonstrating prejudicial traits for no other reason other than the way we looked.
The Captain's Wife pub in Sully, which is part of the Vintage Inns chain. Image credit: The Captain's Wife/Vintage Inns/Wales Online
"He then began backtracking by saying it was nothing personal. I informed him that it was personal and that this is was the exact reason why Black Lives Matter exists. His subconscious bias and internal prejudice had influenced his decision on whether to allow us to have a drink at the Captain's Wife. This was despite the fact we were all dressed in cycling gear and posed no threat.
"This is the exact systemic racism that needs to be eradicated from all sectors - be it education, health, industry or the hospitality and catering industry.
The 48-year-old said he had only taken up cycling since lockdown in a bid to improve his physical health and mental wellbeing. He had been out enjoying a 25-mile loop through the Vale of Glamorgan with his friends before the incident, which happened at around lunchtime on the first weekend that the pub re-opened since lockdown.
Mr Konten added: "Not only have they taken our self-respect, they've taken our dignity as well. Nobody should ever have to feel that way."
Mr Harper, who works in a mental health unit and Mr Miller, a customer service support adviser, believed that the arrangement of the tables could allow the three of them to be seated at the same table in accordance with social distancing guidelines.
Image credit contributipmi.it
A spokesman for the Captain’s Wife, which is owned by Vintage Inns, said the company was looking into Mr Konten's claims, saying: "We take all claims of discrimination very seriously and do not tolerate any kind of abuse taking place within our pub.
"We reopened this weekend for the first time since lockdown and are operating under new Covid-secure measures, which include reduced numbers allowed to sit at tables to help our guests and team social distance within the pub. However, we are investigating the guest's claims with the team and will be reaching out to discuss this with the guests involved."
Mr Konten said the incident had highlighted the lack of diversity in cycling and the threesome had since been invited out with a social cycling club in Cardiff.
Mr Konten posted about his experiences on social media and it quickly went viral, much to his surprise. He admitted the exchange, which was observed by other pub goers around them, had got quite heated and they made the decision to leave and head back home.
"It's a prime example of discrimination to me," Mr Konten said. "It's something I have to live with every day. Even in the high street, I get people looking at me because of the way I look.
"But for me, I'm a teacher, I'm an active role model and every single day I have to lead by example."
The spokesman for the Captain's Wife pub, which is taking part in the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, added: "We pride ourselves on being a welcoming, open and friendly pub and we're really sorry that the three guests have left feeling this wasn't the case when they visited."
Source: Wales Online