Restaurant Gets Dressed Down

Yesterday while watching the Blaze network, I was shocked to see a crawl at the bottom of the screen referencing the Bar Louie restaurant controversy in Memphis.

I had seen Wendi Thomas’ column talking about the dress code there and how it was discriminatory. Seemed a bit far fetched and over sensitive. Haven’t restaurants been posting “no shirt, no shoes, no service” for a long time? I don’t recall anyone getting worked up over that. In fact, I had to applaud the restaurant for trying to kick it up a notch when it comes to today’s fashion – or lack of it.

Looking presentable among others is a sign of respect for them, the venue and themselves. Nowhere is this more evident than in black churches where congregants go all out to wear their best and look nice as a sign of respect and appreciation for the presence of God. It is commendable.

But it didn’t take long for people to compare the “no super baggy clothing, no big chains worn outside shirts, no large plain white T-shirts, no hats turned to the back” sign to Trayvon Martin’s death. That seems like a stretch. A big stretch. Not to Wendi. She writes “Trayvon was wearing a hooded sweatshirt on his way home from a Sanford, Fla, convenience store when he was spotted by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in February 2012. Moments before Zimmerman shot and killed the unarmed 17-year-old black boy, he told a 911 dispatcher that the teen looked like ‘a real suspicious guy.'”

He didn’t say black guy and he didn’t say because he was wearing a hoodie, since after all, it was raining. He did think Trayvon was skulking about and it was his behavior that signaled trouble, according to Zimmerman.

How does this relate to a restaurant? Is Thomas implying that white people will be shooting up black people dressed inappropriately? In that case, the restaurant could be said to be protecting blacks from racist whites who might drop in for a blackened salmon slider, take offense at a gold chain and start gunning for them.

The owner has since taken the sign down. He said he meant no harm. Surely he has the right to turn away patrons he doesn’t feel are dressed appropriately. None of us would go to Chez Philippe in boxer shorts and a ball cap. They would be correct to impose a dress code as a service to their customers. Most men have probably gone into a nice restaurant without a tie and been offered one by the maitre d. Not a big deal. It happens to whites as well as blacks.

When race begins to be an issue in everything you do from your breakfast cereal to your choice of car or your toilet paper preference, maybe you are just a tad overreacting.

Many of us in Midtown have waited years to see Overton Square make a comeback. We don’t think of Bar Louie as discriminatory nor do we think Midtown is. If there is a real grievance, share it. If not, either don’t patronize the place or assume that our fellow Memphians are innocent til proven guilty.

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