A father and son who fled violence in Nepal have run into a fusillade of charges on Yelp claiming anti-gay and anti-Indian slurs at the restaurant they recently took over in Gilroy.
But none of it is true, a shocked Sandesh Khadka, 27, told the Dispatch.
“It’s not something I personally would tolerate according to my ethics and philosophies, I am totally the opposite,” he said.
In fact, the allegations, which began with a one-star review on the Yelp website, were aimed at the former restaurant, called Spice “N” Ice Bar and Grill, on Fifth Street in downtown Gilroy, Khadka said.
Once the transition is complete, the one-time city firehouse will begin its next incarnation with a grand opening this month under a new name: The Brick House 55.
The menu, too, will change, from mostly Indian food to what Khadka called a fusion menu offering American, Latin, Indian and Indochinese dishes.
He and his father, Ashok, 50, are in the process of remaking the restaurant, but they were not managing it and had not yet taken it over when the posts started appearing in early February on Yelp, the popular, user-driven web site that hosts customer reviews of businesses, including restaurants.
Because of issues that have long surrounded the validity and honesty of Yelp’s posts, Khadka said he was very skeptical about what he’s read on the site and was shocked and angered by the attack on his business from an as yet unknown source.
And the issue did not stop at Yelp; posts soon began popping up on Facebook asking if the allegations were true.
Khadkaresponded unequivocally to friends and strangers alike that they were not, that they were about the previous restaurant.
After asking a lot of questions and contacting some of those involved in the negative posts, Khadka remains uncertain just how it all unfolded. Indeed, he knew nothing of the controversy until he was contacted by a Dispatch reporter more than a week after it began.
His response was to open up completely to the newspaper, sharing all the posts he could find and offering his educated guess about what happened—all while navigating through myriad details to get his new eatery up and running as soon as possible.
As it turns out, his guess is equal parts fact, theory and speculation. It goes something like this:
On or about Feb. 18, a Yelp user named Amanda L. posted a review of Spice “N” Ice, giving it one star out of five. Not long after, she received an email from someone who shared her negative view of the eatery but then added comments he or she attributed to restaurant personnel. They were riddled with anti-gay and anti-Indian slurs.
One comment, attributed to Avishek C., reads as follows: “l know you, you were the cheap ass Indian that came in. I can’t believe you gave a 1 star … you bloody cheap ass Indians will never change, go back to India, you belong in the slums, lol slumdog millionaire.”
Another comment, purportedly from the restaurant and attributed again to Avisheck (sic), states: “Hey, Amanda, just read your review … you guys didn’t like something so we took it off and yet you had the audacity to leave a 1 star review. You are no longer welcome to the restaurant, and neither is your wife, or whatever she is. I hate serving gay customers because they are so rude, and unappreciative, but don’t worry you still have time to repent and change your demonic ways. The Lord is always forgiving, and he can change anyone. Good bye.”
As Khadka made his calls to find out what was going on, he talked to the man from whom he was buying the restaurant, a Mr. Rakesh, who was able to contact Amanda L. and offer an apology.
He wrote on Yelp, “Dear valued customer … I am shocked to see this and I am taking this very seriously to make sure this will not happen again. We treat all our customers with love and respect no matter of what race, sex, color, age or gender and will continue to love every individual in our community.”
Although angered by what has happened, Khadka believes it will pass once The Brick House 55 is up and running and the Spice “N” Ice Bar and Grill fades from memory.
Enamored of California, Khadka said Gilroy reminds him of his “beautiful memories” of where he grew up in Nepal, where his family owned a tea and coffee company among other businesses. When civil war broke out in 1996, Maoist rebels targeted him and his father, he said, and they were physically attacked. During the 10-year conflict between the Nepalese government and Maoist rebels, the rebels, according to Wikipedia, killed 10,500 civilians.
The Khadka family was forced to flee, first to India where Sandesh attended high school in New Delhi, then to the United States where he attended the University of Charleston in West Virginia.