Baltimore restaurant group, which has already been accused of creating dress codes targeting nonwhite clients has apologized after a black woman has posted a video showing a white manager refused to his seat, and his son, because he said the boy violated a ban on clothing of sport.
The images of the incident at Ouzo Bay in Baltimore Harbor East, which has drawn accusations of racism on social media, showed the boy’s mother by pointing to a similarly dressed white boy whose family had been served.
Atlas Restaurant Group, owner of the Bay of Ouzo and more than a dozen other restaurants in and around the city, initially said that the manager shown in the video has been placed in indefinite leave, and that the company was “disgusted” by what happened. In a statement posted on the social media, the company said that it had conducted an internal investigation, and that, therefore, the two managers of the restaurant were “no longer with the organization.”
“We sincerely apologize to Marcia Grant, his son and all those affected by this painful incident,” the company said in a statement posted on Twitter, apparently naming the woman, who was denied a table. “This difficult situation does not represent who or what Atlas Restaurant Group stands for.”
In the video, a manager appears to take issue with the little boy clothes, sport shorts, a Air Jordan T-shirt and tennis shoes, stating at one point that his shorts could be the issue. The mother filming the encounter had shifted his camera to the outside of the restaurant, where another boy seemed to wear a similar ensemble.
“You tell me there is no sport clothes?” she is heard to ask. “The little boy he had on tennis shoes and a sports t-shirt. Then, why is it the right to wear gym clothes and my son can’t?”
A woman who seemed to be the boy’s mother posted a message accompanying the video to Facebook and Instagram. “I have encountered racism time and time again,” she wrote. “But it is hard [expletive] when you need to see your child (9yo) angry because he knows that he is different treatment than a white child!!!”
The commentators were swift to condemn the restaurant and have pledged to avoid.
In its press release, the company said it was dropping the dress code restrictions for children under 12 years of age and that it has considered the case of a “teachable moment.”
A sister restaurant Ouzo Bay last year, drew an uproar. Seafood Restaurant Choptank, also owned by Atlas, prompted accusations of racism when it posted a sign prohibiting a variety of items, including clothing (“pants must be worn at the waist”), rear or side of the hats, and the work of construction, and boots. Later, he changed the policy, the lifting of the ban on loose clothing, below-the-knee shorts and sunglasses to wear after dark, and the addition of an exception for religious clothing on its policy on the fight against the brimless hats.
Atlas is owned by brothers Alex and Eric Smith, whose father, Frederick Smith, is co-owner and director of the caution, leaning Sinclair Broadcast Group, which operates TELEVISION stations across the country.
These dress codes are often marked, the legal experts of the note, and can be designed to give managers and others a pretext for discrimination. Melissa Washington, a partner at Outten and Golden, which specializes in discrimination act, says that even if a policy appears neutral on its face, it may be considered illegal.
She says companies are more vulnerable to lawsuits if they demonstrate that there is a pattern and practice of the use of certain elements on the dress codes as a proxy. “A restaurant can say that it is uniformly applied and not to create discrimination,” she said. “But not when you are disproportionately targeting black patrons, or when you peel the layers, and clothing, they are targeting is the cultural attire of the african-American community.”
Wendy Greene, professor of law at the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law who studies appearance and grooming-code of the discrimination, explains the changes that Ouzo Bay and, in particular, by removing the dress code for children under 12 years of age, not to solve its problems, in fact, they may wind up creating more situations in which clients could be targeted based on their race. “We have enough research to know, for example, that African American boys and girls are perceived as being older than the white children,” she said.
Greene said that it would be difficult for most restaurants to establish a dress code would not have the potential to result in racial discrimination. It will have to be strictly applied, very specific, no exceptions to the policy (that is to say, the one who would need intensive training and lots of kicking of patrons of all races), ” she said.
“My suggestion is to think about what are your motivations and what are the consequences, both for those who are deprived of service and those related to the culture that you are trying to create,” she said. “And you have to consider the reputation and the potential financial costs to implement it.”
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