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VANCOUVER: Indo-Canadian women claim to hear taunt ‘Surrey’s that way!’ at Gastown bar (2013)

Indo-Canadian women claim to hear taunt ‘Surrey’s that way!’ at Gastown bar

Published: November 10, 2013

Raj Khangura 24, (left) Jas Dhillon (centre) and Mandeep Grewal 28, were out for Dhillon’s 26th birthday at The Charles Bar last month. She and her friends believe they were victims of racism because as they left the bar manager shouted at them “Surrey’s that way!” Mark van Manen/ PNG


Vancouver’s Jas Dhillon will forever remember her 26th birthday – a day she’d much rather forget.

On Oct. 19 she hoped to celebrate over dinner with friends at The Charles Bar in Gastown. According to Dhillon, she and her friends – all Indo-Canadian women – arrived for their 6 p.m. reservation and were greeted with nothing but rude service, only to be kicked out of the establishment by 7 p.m. as a bar manager allegedly shouted at them, “Surrey’s that way!”

For Dhillon, that final comment changed it from being bad service to something more serious, she said, because she believes it was in reference to the Lower Mainland city’s large East Indian community.

“That’s ridiculous,” Dhillon told Vancouver Desi. “To be honest, we don’t think that kind of stuff still happens.

“To have that happen in Vancouver, in our own hometown – we were just shocked.”

According to Dhillon, the poor treatment began early in the evening, when she realized they were short a few chairs and sat at another booth , which seemed to prompt the manager to approach her and say she’d be kicked out if she didn’t go back to her table.

“The last thing I want to do is leave – it’s my birthday, I don’t want to ruin the party,” said Dhillon. “It’s six in the evening, we’re just sitting there having a good time … Why is this guy being so rude to me from the get-go?” Upon telling her friends what happened, some wondered if it was racism, but they brushed it aside and carried on with their evening.

The Charles Bar, November 5th, on Vancouver’s West Cordova street. Ward Perrin/PNG

But as the rudeness continued, Roop Khangura, a friend of Dhillon’s, said she approached the manager to ask if there was a miscommunication, but instead was told she and her friends were the “the most f—ing annoying table” and they might be asked to leave.

Fed up, they decided to find somewhere else to go.

“I was walking down the street … and I hear him scream out, ‘Surrey’s that way!’” said Khangura. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Dhillon shared the story on Trip Advisor and with friends. One friend posted the review to Facebook on Nov. 4 and in less than a day it garnered more than 185 shares, 56 likes and 31 comments.

After the flood of support, Dhillon emailed Blueprint, the company that owns The Charles Bar, but isn’t happy with the response.

An email addressed to her reads: “Please accept my sincere apologies for the negative experience that you and your group of friends had at the

Charles Bar.” It goes on to state, “We have begun looking into this matter and will be taking action to ensure that our establishments continue to remain up to our standards.”

“(The) email was just so generic,” said Dhillon.

When asked for comment by Vancouver Desi, a Blueprint representative said in an emailed statement the company has been “made aware” a customer “may have had a negative experience at The Charles Bar.”

“We have since taken measures to address things directly with the customer and are looking into this specific complaint,” the email read.

When asked if it’s being addressed with the manager in question, Blueprint did not provide a response. While Dhillon and Khangura doubt anything will come of the complaint, they hope their story raises awareness of this kind of behaviour in Vancouver.

“It’s important for people to know that these kinds of things do happen – it happens all the time,” said Khangura. “It’s unfair.”


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