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Restaurants in court battle: The Social Outcast sues Ishiro for S$200,000 over alleged racist, derogatory comments

SINGAPORE — A food-and-beverage (F&B) establishment, The Social Outcast, on Monday (Aug 8) took food company Oseas Pte Ltd to court for publishing what it described as “racist, derogatory and baseless” negative comments and reviews on various public platforms.

During the alleged incidents, both The Social Outcast and Ishiro were operating at Bedok Marketplace.
During the alleged incidents, both The Social Outcast and Ishiro were operating at Bedok Marketplace.
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  • The Social Outcast is suing another restaurant, Ishiro, for S$200,000 in total
  • It is holding Ishiro responsible for “racist, derogatory and baseless” negative comments made by an employee of Ishiro
  • Ishiro is countersuing for S$63,000, arguing that the plaintiff had dragged the restaurant "through the mud" over an individual's alleged actions and sensationalising the matter

SINGAPORE — A food-and-beverage (F&B) establishment, The Social Outcast, on Monday (Aug 8) took food company Oseas Pte Ltd to court for publishing what it described as “racist, derogatory and baseless” negative comments and reviews on various public platforms.

The Social Outcast, a Muslim-owned restaurant operating since 2019, is seeking S$150,000 in damages and another S$50,000 in aggravated damages from the defendant, which operates under the name Ishiro.

The defendant has countersued for S$63,000 in damages over defamation.

The Social Outcast serves smoked and charcoal grilled meat, while Ishiro serves Japanese fusion rice bowls. During the alleged incidents, both parties were operating at Bedok Marketplace, in close proximity with each other.

THE CASE

The Social Outcast claimed that Mr Chua Wen Bin, employed by Ishiro as a manager at the time, had “published and/or caused to be published racist, derogatory and baseless negative comments and reviews” against other F&B establishments, including The Social Outcast.

These comments were purportedly posted under a Facebook account that was renamed on several occasions.

Among others, the posts published in December 2020 said that The Social Outcast had charged customers for free sauces, called the shop’s co-owner Noelle Chua “fake”, disgusting and described the food negatively.

Some posts also used allegedly derogatory terms on the co-owner, Mr Aminurrashid Hasnordin, and the Malay community.

Mr Aminurrashid is also Ms Chua's husband.

In January last year, The Social Outcast received two large orders on delivery portal GrabFood, which put the eatery's address as the recipient's address and chose "cash on delivery" as the payment method.

The Social Outcast did not realise that the recipient's address was its own and proceeded to prepare the order. It realised that it was a prank when the delivery rider took the food back to the stall.

When the prank happened a second time, the stall was more alert and did not act on the order.

The Social Outcast said that it checked with Grab and found that both orders were made through Mr Chua’s mobile number.

The stall said that another F&B establishment, Mentai-Ya, which was one of the alleged recipients of Mr Chua’s negative reviews, had posted a video on Facebook uncovering Ishiro's actions.

After the video went public, Ishiro posted two sets of apologies on its social media channel — first on Sept 8, which was later removed, followed by another the next day.

The Social Outcast highlighted portions of the apology that supposedly showed Ishiro assuming full responsibility for Mr Chua’s actions.

In its submissions, The Social Outcast added that the negative reviews were posted by Chua, other Ishiro employees, as well as the stall owner, Mr Goh.

Subsequently in its written opening statement, the plaintiff's counsel led by Mr Clarence Lun from Fervent Chambers, argued that the defendant was vicariously liable for the posts made by Mr Chua.

Vicarious liability refers to a situation where one party is made responsible over the unlawful act of another party, such as an employer being held responsible for the actions of an employee.

Ishiro, on the other hand, in its written opening statement asserted that The Social Outcast had never argued vicarious liability except in its opening statement, and instead had named Ishiro as the direct defendant throughout its arguments.

Ishiro also argued that the matters had arisen out of a personal spat between Mr Aminurrashid and Mr Chua, but The Social Outcast dragged Mr Chua's employers “through the mud for the personal remarks made by Mr Chua”.

It further argued that The Social Outcast had disseminated a letter of demand to various media outlets to get attention, causing Ishiro to “endure incessant public abuse and vitriol” as well as suffering damage to its reputation and earnings. 

This formed the basis of the defendant's counterclaims for S$63,000.

DEFAMATORY NATURE OF POSTS CONTESTED

Ms Chua of The Social Outcast took the stand as the plaintiff’s first witness on Monday.

During cross-examination, which lasted for more than six hours, Ishiro's counsel led by Mr Wilbur Lim of WMH Law Corporation questioned Ms Chua’s interpretation of certain parts of the comments in question and how they could be seen as defamatory to The Social Outcast.

For example, Mr Lim asked how Ms Chua’s “fake smile” and lack of knowledge of food, as written in the comments, would deter customers from The Social Outcast when she mainly manned the cashier counter while the husband was the chef at the time.

Ms Chua asserted that her sincerity and knowledge of the food that they served formed “intangible” parts of service, which makes up a part of an F&B establishment’s offerings.

During various parts of the trial, Ms Chua also made impassioned statements about how the comments affected her “dignity as a woman”.

She also said that she had spoken to other F&B establishments, who allegedly became victims to bad reviews by Ishiro's employees and owner.

Other questions raised revolved around why Ms Chua, in social media posts, had identified individuals as being behind the negative reviews but The Social Outcast's letter of demand had named Ishiro as being responsible for the reviews instead.

The trial is set to continue with Mr Aminurrashid, Mr Chua and Ishiro's owner Deon Goh Li Qun set to take the stand.

Related topics

crime court The Social Outcast Ishiro defamation Bedok Marketplace F&B

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