If your name’s not Svensson, you’re not coming in

Apparently Swedish bars and restaurants are doing so well these days that they are becoming increasingly picky about their clientele. And - surprise, surprise - it's immigrants who are at the back of the queue.

According to Tuesday’s Svenska Dagbladet, the number of reports of ethnic discrimination in bars has doubled in the last 12 months despite – or perhaps because of – an anti-discrimination law introduced a year ago.

One of the cases reported to DO, the Discrimination Ombudsman, was that of Sengül Köse, a 25 year old student from Lund. She and her three friends queued for 20 minutes outside a bar in Malmö last autumn, only to be asked for her ‘VIP card’ by the doorman.

As it was her first time at the bar, she didn’t have one, and then watched as several others were welcomed to the bar without such a card – including a girl who admitted that it was her first time there too.

“The doorman said he knew her, but when I asked her she said she didn’t know him,” Köse told SvD.

The paper explained that Köse has Kurdish parents but has lived in Sweden for many years, and her friends are of Iranian origin.

“We were old enough, we were wearing suitable clothes and could pay for ourselves. We had driven there and were absolutely not drunk,” said Sengül. “It was obvious that we didn’t get in because of our appearance.”

Among the other cases that DO is dealing with are two 24 year old gypsy women – both born in Sweden – who were “turned away without food” from a pizza restaurant outside Gävle, a middle-aged black man who was refused entry to a pub in Malmö while his classmates were allowed in, and Rose Nakimera Sendawula and her two friends from Uganda who were asked to leave a restaurant in central Stockholm.

Sendawula is suing the bar for 100,000 crowns for ethnic discrimination. The case, which will come to court in the autumn, is the first to test the new anti-discrimination law.

Ulrika Dietersson, a lawyer at DO, told SvD that research has shown that only a very small percentage of those who have faced discrimination in bars and restaurants actually bother reporting it, so DO’s work is undermined by a lack of evidence.

Now the organisation is considering sending out ‘plants’ to test the venues under suspicion.

“The problem is that there’s so little concrete evidence, so little information and it’s impossible to compare with others in the same situation,” said Dietersson.

“So we’re considering doing some practical research – simply sending out a group of people to test the restaurants.”

But as far as Mats Hulth, chairman of Sweden’s Hotel and Restaurant Association, is concerned, the idea deserves to be turned away at the door.

“I think it would be better to inform bars and restaurants of the situation,” he said, cautiously noting that more places seem to be conscious of the new law.

“But at the same time there are immigrants using the law to cause trouble with restaurants,” he continued. “I’ve heard of guests reporting them for discrimination when in fact they were too drunk to get in.”

It’s not just immigrants who face problems getting in to restaurants. According to DHR, an organisation representing people with disabilities, 25% of Stockholm restaurants’ outside seating is completely inaccessible to wheelchair users.

DHR says that the problem stems from a lack of control from the local council, and that things haven’t improved at all since last year.

Nisse Duwähl, chairman of DHR, told Thursday’s SvD that restaurants don’t see the economic benefit of investing in wheelchair ramps. One example was Mandarin, a Chinese restaurant on Sveavägen.

“I asked them why they have not adapted to the needs of people with disabilities,” he said. “They answered that they don’t have many customers going there in wheelchairs. But how could they if there’s no ramp? It’s a Catch-22.”