Baltimore restaurant accused of racism after posting specifically strict dress code
A new seafood restaurant in Baltimore has become more of a flash point than a hot spot as it fields racism accusations for its strict, and very specific, dress code.
“Strictly Prohibited” at The Choptank, which opened this week in the Fells Point neighborhood, were “excessively baggy clothing”; attire that is deemed “offensive, vulgar or inappropriate”; athletic attire such as sweats or gym clothes; headgear without a brim, such as bandanas and beanies; work and construction boots; sunglasses after dark and backpacks or book bags.
On Ravens/Orioles game days, the jersey rule would be suspended, according to the sign. Hats such as baseball caps must be worn forward. Pants had to be “worn at the waist.”
An irate would-be customer posted the list on Twitter, garnering a slew of negative feedback.
“Dress CODED sign at the new Choptank restaurant in Fells,” said J.M. Giordano pointedly.
The restaurant owners said they were merely mirroring the policies of their sibling restaurants in the Fells Point section, though several of those restaurants told The Washington Post their policies were nowhere near that specific.
“Being new to the Fells Point neighborhood, we simply implemented the dress code standard that is used by several other properties in the area," the owners tweeted back.
Detractors called the code blatantly racist with its allusions to fashion often worn by people of color.
“They should have just said white tourists only, lol,” tweeted one commenter.
“No ‘brimless headgear.’ So are yarmulkes and hijabs prohibited?” tweeted another.
Texas A&M sociology professor Reuben Buford May, who has made a study of discrimination in public venues and nightlife spots, noted to The Washington Post that specific language aimed at certain styles could be seen as an attempt to exclude certain groups.
“Anytime you have something that specific, it’s pretty likely it’s being used in a discriminating way,” May told The Washington Post. “It means that a particular group is being penalized for that being their style.”
A similar dress code fell equally flat earlier this year in New Jersey, when a Jersey City venue posted a code for “upscale casual” that was nearly verbatim to Choptank’s.
It caught just as much push-back with stipulations such as no low or baggy pants, no work boots, no sunglasses, no camouflage, no oversized jeans or shirts, no head gear, no ball caps and no athletic apparel.
Those restaurant owners eventually rescinded the policy.