A Darlinghurst Cafe Owner Just Refused To Hire A Barista Because “African People Can’t Make Good Coffee”

Well, this is embarrassing for everyone.

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So none of us are going to Forbes and Burton cafe anymore, yeah?

Last night, Daily Mail AU published an exclusive interview with Nilson Dos Santos, a Brazilian-born Australian man who’s worked in Sydney as a barista for nine years, and has run his own Surry Hills coffee shop for five.

On Saturday, Dos Santos called the cafe to inquire about a job opening, and the cafe owner — who identified himself only as ‘Steven’ — asked him where he was from. Dos Santos answered that he was Brazilian, and was invited to come in to interview the next day — but when he arrived at the cafe, he was turned down immediately.

For being black.

“When I came to the café for the interview today, he looked at me and looked surprised. He didn’t like what he saw.

“We sat down and he said, ‘but you’re black?’

“I said  ‘yes’ and he told me, ‘but my customers are white. I don’t think they’d like to have their coffee made by black people. That’s not part of the coffee culture. You’re African’.”

The cafe owner confirmed the story with Daily Mail. “There are a lot of white customers at the café and I think the clients here want local people, not African people,” he explained.

Which, by the way:


(Nilson Dos Santos is an Australian citizen.)

I didn’t ask any questions because I prefer the barista to be local, not from Italy or other countries,” Steven continued. Steven, from Shanghai, arrived in Australia this year; as Daily Mail points out, he needs to run his business for two years to secure an Australian visa. “When I choose staff, maybe the waitresses are better with being local, the same with barista (sic). In some people’s opinions African people can’t make good coffee.”

“We need to offer good service at this café, and I think the coffee culture is more about white people.” 

Dos Santos, miraculously, managed not to punch him. “I wanted to punch him,” he said, “but I thought that if I reacted badly, that wouldn’t be the right thing either.” Instead, he stood in the middle of the cafe and calmly told the customers and staff what had happened: “Excuse me, I don’t mean to bother everybody but I just asked for a job and he told me that I can’t because I’m black and shouldn’t make coffee for white people”.

The customers left the cafe immediately — and one staff member quit on the spot. “I wish I could say thank you to her,” Dos Santos said. “To stand up to her boss and leave was so brave. I hope she finds a new job soon, she was so lovely to me.”

Dos Santos grew up homeless, rummaging through rubbish bins for food so that he and his mother could survive. “I had to leave my mother when I was eight because she gave away my brother for a box of alcohol. I have never seen him again. I don’t know if he’s alive,” he told Daily Mail. “Over there, people accused you of things because you were black. Australia hasn’t been like that until today.

“When I came here I felt so free. I knew that this was the place where I wanted to be. Here no one looks at me like I’m different. I thought that time of my life was over and in the past.

“I am so happy to be an Australian. Since becoming a citizen, I see myself as an Australian. You understand that you have the same rights as anyone else, as well as the same obligations as everyone.”

Forbes and Burton cafe — or “F&B” — is located on the corner of Burton Street and Forbes Street in Darlinghurst. If you feel like leaving them a review, you can find them on UrbanspoonEatabilityTrip Advisor and Facebook.

The coffee’s much better at The Bunker, anyway.

August 22 Update: Forbes & Burton has been closed for business since Monday. These signs have been posted to poles nearby.


Feature Image via; h/t The Daily Mail.