I parked, and hobbled in. (I have a stress fracture in my foot, so I'm walking with a cane for the moment. It's not permanent.) A waitress met me at the door, and courteously asked me how many for the table. I told her one, and she said "Oh, so sorry. I cannot seat you."
I said "Excuse me?" as I looked around at the 3/4 empty restaurant. "What's the problem? Why can't you serve me?" I figured it was because they were about to close between lunch and dinner -- a lot of buffet places will do that...but then again, it was before 1PM.
"Owner policy -- no singles at tables. Two-person minimum. So sorry, you must leave or bring someone else with you next time."
She pointed at a very small sign, printed in red-lettered English. "Minimum two persons at tables."
I started to raise a stink. "What you you mean I have to leave? Your restaurant is nearly empty -- I want to get lunch! If you were busy, I guess I could understand, but you're NOT!"
A very well-dressed woman, the manager, came over, and put on a HUGE fake smile. She apologized prettily several times, and asked me to leave because I was alone and they could not serve a single person. I pointed out that this was very likely illegal, and that I wanted to speak to the owner. He was not available, but she willingly gave me their business card. As I placed it in my wallet, my wallet fell open and she noticed my EMS badge.
"You police??" she looked distinctly nervous.
"No. EMS. But you'd better believe I'm letting Consumer Affairs know about this."
She again apologized, and I started towards the door, angry. Then she put her hand on my arm and guided me further.
"Do NOT touch me," I snapped at her as I hobbled out the door. I'm not usually the type to snap at a stranger, but dammit, she'd just refused to serve me and then she put her hand on me! WTF???
I called 311, NYC's information hotline, and told the operator what happened. She was horrified, and said no, this was not a Consumer Affairs issue. It was a Human Rights/Discrimination issue, and she connected me with that department. Unfortunately, she lost the connection, but you'd better believe I'm calling back tomorrow.
My mom suggested I contact Councilman John Liu about what's happening in his district. He's been trying so hard to get the Flushing area to be friendly to non-Asians (making sure they follow the law and post signs in both English and whatever language they want, etc.), she doesn't think he'd be happy to hear about this. There are a lot of problems with businesses breaking NYC consumer laws all the time -- I don't know if it's a language issue or a cultural one, but he's been working to remedy it.
One curious thing: Every other sign in that restaurant vestibule was in an Asian script, or a couple in both English and an Asian script. That tiny little sign was the only sign that was just in English. Huh.
One way or another, I got discriminated against. I am fairly sure it's not allowed to discriminate against a single diner -- I remember hearing about this years ago in NYC.
You can bet I will not be bringing other people to that restaurant. There are plenty of other sushi bars in Flushing, or NYC for that matter.
Edit: I have to ask -- has anybody else *ever* encountered such a policy? I'm really curious. I'm not a kid anymore, and I've *never* experienced this.