EMER SAYS: ‘Imagine walking up to a James Bond-style cocktail bar, only there’s a string of balloons around the door.
‘Two heavy-set bouncers guard the double-door entrance, eyeing those trying to get entry with an air of suspicion.
‘At Beluga Leatherhead’s soft opening last night there was no queue at the door, no man with a list, but I did get the distinct feeling of being scrutinised before I was ushered through to an entranceway.
‘Maybe that was because last week’s controversy – sparked by the publication of a strict dress code asking women to wear “sexy black strappy heels” and “bodycon-style dresses” – had me on edge.
‘After an intensely uncomfortable moment of confusion around whether I was meeting friends there or waiting for them to arrive I was told a seat at the bar would be no problem at all.
‘Moments later Chloe, who had dressed in black jeans and a jumper, was also allowed through.
‘I imagine they supposed she was the friend I was meeting as she was also alone.
‘Chloe told me she’d felt a sense of being scrutinised on her appearance, with the security guards appearing to sneer.
Despite there being no queue and half the restaurant was empty, Emer said she got the distinct feeling of being scrutinised before I was ushered through to an entranceway
Emer said the bar was ‘James Bond style’ but covered in balloons during the soft opening in the small Surrey commuter town
Despite the rules claiming entry was ‘guest list only’ both Emer (left), who was dressed up and Chloe (right) got in without a reservation
Emer said that security had to get a supervisor before letting her in – but she was fine to sit at a bar inside and wait for her friend Chloe
Despite security initially blocking the door. Emer was allowed in with bouncers even joking her heels were ‘perfect’ for the dress code
A bouncer said that it was a ‘classy’ establishment and no one was allowed in wearing trainers or hoodies, but Chloe got in wearing a jumper and boots
Emer and Chloe (pictured) also explained how by the door a convoy of men in black suits and intercom systems stood keeping watch over the clientele
Emer (left) said that she almost felt dressed down compared to other guests who had blow dried hair – despite adhering to the dress code
Emer added that she thought she was going to be ‘kicked out’ the whole time for the first 30 minutes and that most of the men were in suits
Emer said inside the ‘bass was thumping’ and the lights were low – with many sipping on cocktails while dressed to the nines
While both Chloe (left) and Emer (right) were allowed into the bar, they suggested nerves around being kicked out and not being dressed up enough
‘I’d dressed in a tight black dress and the aforementioned heels, which a security guard would later joke with me were the perfect style, and was ready to try my luck on getting inside.
‘But when I arrived outside the door, rather than stepping aside the security guards remained stock still and blocked the entrance.
Emer and her friend Chloe posed for pictures inside. They said that many people came in to snap a picture at the bar before leaving
‘They said good evening and asked how I was. After a short chat I was asked if I had a reservation and when I said I did not, one of the men had to go inside to get a supervisor.
‘In a small area inside the front door I was told to wait while the security guard “went to get someone for me'” This second man deigned to allow me inside a second set of double doors and into the bass-thumping bar and restaurant.
‘But then it could just be last week’s news articles condemning the venue for its “sexist” attitudes that has women putting more focus on whether their look is appropriate.
‘During the night a steady stream of passers-by in casual clothing were allowed into the restaurant to take pictures by the bar before leaving.
‘A now-friendly security guard later told me he was not told to look too closely at how customers were dressing, but that it was a classy establishment and effort should be made – no hoodies or trainers.
‘Another man inside the bar told me the situation had been “blown out of proportion” and the people in charge of advertising “messed up”.
‘The official guests were seated at tables surrounding the central bar area, with each table sporting a red balloon with Beluga printed on them.
‘Those who had arrived were dressed glamorously, with blow dried curls, glittery dresses and stiletto heels.
‘I almost felt underdressed despite conforming to the “dress code”.
‘Men were wearing, for the most part, suits.
‘Although I did notice a few deigned only to don a jumper and jeans for the occasion.
‘By the door a convoy of men in black suits and intercom systems stood keeping watch over the clientele.
‘For the first 30 minutes I felt sure I would be asked to leave at any moment.
‘But the restaurant was half-empty.
The bouncers appeared to monitor what the clientele were doing and asked people in they had reservations before coming in
Emer added: ‘On my way back to the station I noticed other establishments surrounding the venue also appear to be in on the joke, with a nearby pub proudly displaying a sign reading “no dress code, just vibes’
‘Later, once outside again, I spoke to a man in the smoking area who told me the owners were disappointed with the turnout.
‘He said the sexism row had put a lot of guests off attending the opening, but that it had been a silly mistake and they hoped to prove in time no harm was meant.
‘On my way back to the station I noticed other establishments surrounding the venue also appear to be in on the joke, with a nearby pub proudly displaying a sign reading “no dress code, just vibes”.
‘Inside the Penny Black around the corner the locals were awash with snide comments about the up and coming new establishment.
‘But with Google’s first results for Beluga coming up with the intense criticism, even above the whale, only time will tell whether women are prepared to forgive the venue for such an intense PR mishap.’