Restaurant Denies Service to Rapper for Smelling Like Pot, Sparking National Debate in South Africa


Should restaurant patrons who smell like weed be denied service at a restaurant? That’s the question South Africans are asking after one of the country’s top rappers was denied service along with two friends. 

South African rapper Emtee was denied service, along with two fellow rappers, from a branch of Mike’s Kitchen in Johannesburg, South Africa earlier this month after the restaurant complained that they smelled like weed. (Personal cannabis use at home is decriminalized and medical use is legal in South Africa.) The incident is prompting a national debate about the odor of cannabis in public spaces, and many people think the rappers were profiled as well.

Emtee, who has millions of followers on Instagram, along with rappers Uncle Vinny and Yungseruno, said they were refused entry from Mike’s Kitchen in Parktown because they were “smelling of weed and had too many tattoos.” The restaurant chain is known for South African heritage-based dishes.

TimesLIVE, South Africa’s second-biggest news website, reports that Emtee’s lawyers demanded an apology from Mike’s Heritage House in the upscale Parktown neighborhood of Johannesburg or he will take legal action against the restaurant.

“We decided to go have lunch at Mikes Kitchen, Parktown,” Emtee said. “We were dropped off. We walked in and as we were being ushered to our table, a white man comes and tells us to leave because we ‘smell of weed and we had too many tattoos’. Mind you, our transport has left. This ho ass nigga kicked out the yard,” Emtee said.

While apartheid ended decades ago, a severe case of race inequality remains rampant in Johannesburg, with nearly 40% of Black South Africans unemployed, a much higher ratio than their white counterparts. South African leaders, however, are currently taking measures to promote equity. On April 12, 2023, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa signed into law the Employment Equity Amendment Bill of 2020, which enacts “equity targets” to promote equity in the business sector.

Emtee sounded fed up after being denied entry from the restaurant, suggesting racism was at play as well.

“Fuck Mikes Kitchen in Parktown!” Emtee said. “You are about to get served. The fuck!? Fuck y’all food! At this, you are all fucking with me and my guys for nothing. Talking about ‘I’m gonna call the police’, call them! Scary ass bitch. Say never go to Mikes Kitchen Parktown. The son of biches is racist! Yeah I said! You all gone have to kill me. Mikes kitchen in Park Town is going down!”

Emtee’s legal representatives have demanded that Mike’s Kitchen issue a public apology on Wednesday to the star or they will proceed with legal action.

Mike’s Kitchen publicist Melinda Shore told TimesLIVE, “We are handling this privately. It’s not a matter they want to handle in the media. It’s being handled and taken seriously.”

Emtee responded by posting a video on Instagram of himself buying a bottle of cologne, probably referring to the Mike’s Kitchen incident.

“They say I’m this, they say I’m that,” Emtee posted on Instagram. “They forgot to tell you I smell best. When you see, embrace me.”

“My life isn’t easy but I woke up feeling blessed,” Emtee sings on his latest single. “Smokin’ on that zaza, tryna balance out the stress…”

In the U.S. the E-Bar restaurant in Dallas, Texas also discriminates against and denies service to patrons if they smell like weed.

Cannabis Reform in South Africa

Last November, the South African National Assembly approved a bill that would decrminalize the personal use of cannabis. The Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill has been in the works since the country decriminalized private cannabis use in 2018 and now heads to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence. While it’s legal at home, it’s still illegal to smoke outside of one’s private dwelling, and it’s also illegal to buy or sell cannabis. Medical cannabis may also be prescribed.

Democratic Alliance Member of Parliament Janho Engelbrecht spoke about the bill in the National Assembly, highlighting adults will only be allowed to use cannabis privately in their homes and sales will still be strictly prohibited should the measure pass.

“People should bear in mind what this bill is about. It is about cannabis for private use by adults. You are not allowed to buy or sell cannabis, because this still remains a criminal activity with severe consequences. If you want to smoke it, you have to grow it, don’t buy it,” Engelbrecht said.

Despite decriminalization and medical cannabis in the country, South Africa still is in need of change.





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