Bar Denies NYU Student for Her Puerto Rican ID

An NYU Student was barred from entering Los Feliz, a Lower East Side bar, because of her Puerto Rican ID.

Rebecca Gelpí, an NYU senior majoring in Journalism and Cinema Studies holds up her Puerto Rican ID. Gelpí and her friend Lola Palerm were denied entry from Los Feliz, a Mexican bar/restaurant on the Lower East Side, apparently due to their Puerto Rican IDs. (Photo by Cecilia Hua)

What was supposed to be a fun night out with friends took a turn when CAS senior Rebecca Gelpí was denied entry at a bar. The reason? Her Puerto Rican ID. 

Gelpí was out with friends last Saturday night when the group decided to go to Los Feliz — a Mexican bar and restaurant on the Lower East Side frequented by NYU students. 

While waiting in line, two of Gelpí’s friends, who had a U.S. passport card and a Washington State ID, were let in without a hitch. When it came to her and her friend Lola Palerm, a New York Film Academy student  — also holding a Puerto Rican driver’s license — she said the bouncer became skeptical.

“He told us that he was uncomfortable with our form of ID, that it was invalid and we should leave immediately,” Gelpí said.

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Taken aback and confused, Gelpí tried to explain to the bouncer that Puerto Rican IDs are valid American identification cards, but he dismissed her and told them to go somewhere else, even calling over another bouncer. 

“They asked us why we did not have our passports with us,” Gelpí said. “So I said, ‘Because we’re American citizens, we don’t need to carry [them] around.’”

Puerto Rico became a commonwealth of the U.S. in 1952, but Puerto Ricans have been granted birthright citizenship since the Jones Act of 1917. For Gelpí and Palerm, who were both born in Puerto Rico and are therefore automatic U.S. citizens, this incident was an unwelcome surprise. 

“This is a place where Hispanics and Latinos go as a safe haven, to meet people just like us, and now we can’t be in here?” Palerm asked.

Gelpí and Palerm were not the only ones who have experienced this. Other customers have been denied entry for the same reason, according to the establishment’s Yelp reviews.

“Absolute terrible service,” wrote a user named ‘Kayla M’ on Oct. 26, 2019. “They would not take a legal US ID because it was from Puerto Rico which is part of the US and issues legal IDs.”

Another user had a similar complaint. 

“Terrible and racist towards Puerto Ricans, we went to have a fun night out and couldn’t get in because they wouldn’t accept our ID even though we’re US citizens,” a user by the name of ‘Daniella S’ posted on August 23, 2019.

Los Feliz bar manager Jeremy Hansen said the bar does not have any protocol regarding Puerto Rican IDs. 

“It is not our policy to deny Puerto Rican IDs,” Hansen told WSN. “If any ID may appear to be fake and we cannot verify its authenticity, we may deny it. This has happened from everything to Pennsylvania IDs to Oregon IDs to, yes, even Puerto Rican IDs.”

Gelpí and Palerm are both over 21 and the authenticity of their IDs could have been verified by a scanner, which the bouncers had. Defeated and disappointed, they left the venue. 

“I just feel there is still a lot to learn from this situation, people should know we’re American citizens,” Gelpí said. 

Last November, 20-year-old Puerto Rican student José A. Guzmán-Payano, who studies at Purdue University, was denied cold medicine at a CVS Pharmacy in Indiana because the employees did not perceive his driver’s license as a valid form of ID, the New York Times reported.

Palerm attributed the incident to baseless stigma against Puerto Ricans. 

“It could be a mix of both ignorance and discrimination,” Palerm said. “[Puerto Ricans] can have a bad rap of being rowdy, but I want to think it’s mostly ignorance.”   

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 2, 2020, print edition. Email Cecilia Hua at [email protected]

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Well that depends on weather you want to believe the basis of his decision was from ignorance. Its often hard to distinquish between the two. However, on the other hand it could be cause and effect. His ignorance causes him to be a racist.

  2. Hello, I work for Los Feliz and was outside when the incident occurred. Rebecca Gelpí’s ID was ‘off’ to our bouncer. We take all forms of valid IDs including Puerto Rican IDs. We only reject ID’s that look suspicious. In this case, we asked for a second form of ID. She and her group proceeded to yell at our bouncers, (who are African American) and accused them of being racist. I decided to help de-escalate the situation and asked Rebecca how I can help after introducing myself. I am also Puerto Rican and told her that racism definitely was not or ever the case in our establishment. She then aggressively shoved her PR ID in my face as well as a second ID from DC. I told her that we aren’t here to be aggressive with one another and we aren’t going to yell or shove IDs in a person’s face. I did tell her because of how aggressive she was being I wouldn’t able to help her any further and apologized for the inconvenience.

    Her friends were understanding and even apologized for her behavior while admitting to me that they were turned away from 2 other places because of her ID.
    At this point they had left.

    We are deeply saddened by this incident. Los Feliz prides itself in being a multi ethnic, open, and safe place for all people to express and have a good time. As long as your id is valid

  3. This situation is unfortunate. But I will say that I am familiar with this establishment and can assure you these accusations are unfounded. I know the staff. The fact that racist accusations are being made is beyond me. The truth is, people get turned down for having suspicious IDs all the time. It’s happened to me. It can be embarrassing, but it is what it is. Yiu just go somewhere else. It’s unfortunate she feels this way, but these claims are simply not true. I’m a regular there for a reason. I love the place.

  4. Hello My name is Jeremy and I am the manager of Los Feliz and I would like to respond to this article because I have always ran Los Feliz with the ideals that everyone is welcome. First I would like to start with the full quote that I sent Mrs. Hua “It is not our policy to deny Puerto Rican ID’s. We are a high volume club that gets ID’s from across the country and we do our best fro the safety of our customers to adhere to state regulated alcohol laws. If any ID may appear to be fake and we can not verify it’s authenticity we may deny it. This has happened from everything to Pennsylvania ID’s to Oregon ID’s and yes even to Puerto Rican ID’s. At Los Feliz we have always strived to do our best to be an incredibly diverse and inclusive restaurant with our staff and our customers.”
    All though I was not present for this incident another one of our employees was and I’d like to share her experience.

    “Hello I work for Los Feliz and was outside when the incident occurred. Rebecca Gelpi’s ID was “off” to our bouncer. We take all forms of valid ID’s including Puerto Rican ID’s. We only reject ID’s that look suspicious. in this case we asked for a second form of ID. She and her group proceeded to yell at our bouncers (who are African American) and accuse them of being racist. I decided to help de-escalate the situation and ask Rebecca how I can help after introducing myself. I am also Puerto Rican and told her racism definanitely was not or ever the case in our establishment. She then aggressively shoved her PR ID in my face as well as a second ID from DC. I told her that we aren’t her to be aggressive with one another and we aren’t going to yell or shoveID’s in a person’s face. I did tell her because of aggressive she was being I wouldn’t be able to help her any further and apologized for the inconvenience. Her friends were understanding and even apologized for her behavior while admitting to me that they were turned away from 2 other places because of her ID. at this point hey had left. We are deeply saddened be this incident. Los Feliz prides itself in being a multi ethnic, open, and safe place for all people to express and have a good time.” – Deborah

    I hope this can further shed light on this situation. I have worked for Los Feliz for 10 years and have enjoyed serving people in the neighbor greatly.

  5. How do they validate/verify a DL authenticity? This seems like a cop out. Looks like an excuse fed to them by their lawyers. Of course they mention other states, However, Yelp only has complaints from PR DL holders. How convenient. Reach out to some PR celebrities and hammer them with negative PR.

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