An award-winning jazz musician from the U.K. is receiving an outpouring of support after he claims he was mistreated, then booted by staffers at an pizzeria because of his race.
Soweto Kinch, a two-time MOBO Awards winner, detailed the incident in a Twitter post last week, describing the moment he was forced out of the L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele in London on Friday.
Posting video of the row, Kinch wrote: “I’m genuinely at a loss to explain this one … just wanted to order a pizza. [The] waitress rudely ignores me. Nobody offered to serve me. When I filmed this unbelievable behaviour, they attacked my phone and physically ejected me from the restaurant.”
The 28-second clip shows a staff member angrily smack the phone out of -the Black musician’s hands after Kinch confronted him over his alleged ill- treatment. The popular eatery has since found itself mired in controversy after the saxophonist’s claims, but a L’Antica spokesman insists it was Mr. Kinch who was being “extremely unfriendly” — a charge he flatly denied.
“The response of this restaurant is disappointing but not surprising,” Kinch said, accusing the eatery of concocting lies and even doctoring surveillance footage in an effort to discredit him.
“All of this drama could have been averted if they had simply apologised and asked me if I would like to order…. a pizza 🤷🏾♂️, he added. “This is sadly far from the first time I’ve posted about these experiences.”
In a more recent post published to Facebook, Kinch explained that he’d visited the pizzeria on previous occasions with his white friends and had no issues. He says he got a much different response when he showed up to the restaurant alone, however, and that the waitress even “cut me an evil stare.”
“I said hello, and got no response but a more contemptuous look,” Kinch recalled. “I just looked back, thinking do I want to spend money here?? I turned around left the restaurant before thinking, ignore her behaviour and order the pizza from a non-rude person.”
That’s when the musician said another employee stepped in to defuse the situation, explaining that the waitress didn’t speak English and probably thought he was requesting the bathroom. Offended, Kinch said he voiced his frustration with the fact that the waitress viewed him as “incapable of being a customer, but must be an incontinent vagrant.”
Things escalated, and that’s when a third employee joined their dispute.
“I’m still asking for a menu! Nobody responds with a menu, I started filming as I couldn’t believe this was happening,” said Kinch. “Then, as I am getting the video and social media handle, he slaps the phone from my hand! Again the conciliatory colleague steps between me and the phone slapper.”
In his rage, Kinch admits he picked up a stool to throw but quickly calmed himself because he realized “this is another case of being baiting into violence – they wanted an excuse to call the police.”
He continued: “The manager comes, doesn’t utter a word, doesn’t listen to me at all. Whilst on the phone he shuts me out of the restaurant, back into the rain. The entire episode from start to finish is a disgrace.”
The L’Antica Pizzeria addressed the incident in series of posts uploaded to its Instagram Stories, in which they painted Kinch as the aggressor and claimed he became violent by throwing a chair.
“The truth is that since the moment that [Kinch] walked in, he had a rude behaviour because we didn’t serve him immediately and he started to insult the receptionist for that, and later also the waiters,” according to the eatery. “So we asked the person to leave the premises.”
An anonymous Twitter bot posted stills from the restaurant’s CCTV, and footage posted by the restaurant itself failed to show the moment the staffer assaulted Kinch.
“They’ve doctored CCTV footage to remove the part where a member of staff slaps my phone out of my hand,” the musician wrote on Facebook. “They’ve implied I was ‘high,’ left and returned to the restaurant for no reason. They’ve created fake Twitter profiles to dispute my account. Posted a fake story from a ‘witness’ who said I was intimidating her that night…. even though it happened at 4.15pm.”
Since the incident, Kinch has been flooded with support from fans and celebrities alike, including British Indian musician Nitin Sawhney and British community activist Sasha Josette. Later, a diner believed to be at restaurant at the time of the incident corroborated Kinch’s account of events in a review posted on TripAdvisor.
Watch more in the video below.