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Posh Uruguay Restaurant Allegedly Denies Entry to Black U.S. Diplomat

A posh bar-restaurant in Montevideo is at the center of a diplomatic mess after reports surfaced it denied entry to a black U.S. diplomat.
Image: Julissa Reynoso
Ambassador Julissa Reynoso in Uruguay, Nov. 7, 2012.GDA/El Pais via AP file / AP

A posh bar-restaurant in Montevideo, Uruguay is at the center of what one newspaper described in a headline as a lío diplomático — a diplomatic mess — after reports surfaced in the country's media that the establishment, Circus, had denied entry to a U.S. diplomatic official because she was black.

According to reports in Uruguay's El Observador and El País, the diplomat and the group were given certain reasons, including a lack of reservations and inappropriate dress codes, though others went in without reservations and the official was dressed appropriately. El Observador reports that at some point a Circus employee did admit race was factor. A restaurant spokesperson, Jorge Lenoble, has said publicly and on social media that it absolutely does not discriminate based on race or gender and said he has tried to reach out to the U.S. official.

Uruguay's U.S. Ambassador, Julissa Reynoso, is quoted in Uruguayan media as saying they were evaluating what action to take regarding the incident with the diplomat and was surprised by the restaurant's "ignorance," which did not correspond to the rest of Uruguayan cultural norms.

When asked by NBC News about the incident on Wednesday, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said, "“We have seen that report, we are looking into this but I have no update at this time, and we will see if anything transpires over the next day or so.”


— Sandra Lilley