A strict dress code posted to the door of a new Baltimore seafood house has recently drawn a viral social media response decrying it as “blatantly discriminatory” and “racist as hell.” The restaurant group behind the venue is to set open two new restaurants in a downtown D.C. hotel, where a spokesperson for the group says that it will also enforce a dress code for customers.
Atlas Restaurant Group runs 12 venues in Baltimore, including Bygone, a roaring ’20s bar on top of the Four Seasons, and the Elk Room, a speakeasy that made an Esquire list of Best Bars in America. A dress code printed on a piece of paper posted outside its new Baltimore venue, Choptank, listed the following items, among others, as STRICTLY PROHIBITED: “excessively baggy clothing,” “brimless headgear,” “backwards or sideways hats,” and jerseys. A tweet drawing attention to the policy from Baltimore-based writer R. Eric Thomas, who showed Choptank’s Twitter account had blocked him, triggered a slew of comments calling out the dress code.
Well this is... professional. Earlier today I took issue with blatantly discriminatory dress code at a new Baltimore eatery called @The_Choptank and asked them to explain the rationale behind the restrictions (seen here in a pic by @jmgpix). Instead of answering, they blocked me! pic.twitter.com/nEg1Bas97V— R. Eric Thomas (@oureric) September 16, 2019
Dress CODED sign at the new Choptank restaurant in Fells... pic.twitter.com/uy058w0ka0— J. M. Giordano photo (@jmgpix) September 15, 2019
No jerseys? IN BALTIMORE?!?! Good luck. Also...the rest is hella racist.— Rebecca O'Donnell (@rodickell) September 17, 2019
In an article Washingtonian published yesterday, Atlas spokesman Joe Sweeney tells the magazine that “DC properties will have dress codes as well.” However, in a Baltimore Sun piece published later that night, Sweeney says the company does not support “discrimination of any sort” and is reviewing its policy “in light of allegations made.”
Sweeney sent Eater the following statement about the restaurant groups plans for enforcing a dress code at its D.C. properties: “Dress codes are common in many D.C. restaurants. We haven’t yet developed our dress code specifics in D.C. but it will be something that will match what other restaurants are doing in the neighborhood and what reflects the Moxy brand.”
The Sun notes that similar dress codes are enforced at other Atlas properties, like the Bygone, which requires collared shirts for men and enforces bans on “designer sneakers” and “excessively ripped” clothing. A lawyer representing Atlas wrote an email to the Sun disputing the dress code’s characterization as racist, saying the standards are enforced to “help create a particular atmosphere in its restaurants, regardless of the race of the guests.”
Reporting from the Washington Post and Washingtonian both showed that Choptank’s line of defense — that it was simply following norms in Baltimore’s historic Fells Point neighborhood — is shaky. The Sun points out that at least two other Fells Point bars unaffiliated with the group have dress codes barring white T-shirts and excessive jewelry.
Atlas has reportedly encountered construction delays in opening two new restaurants in the Moxy, a glass-enclosed rooftop bar and another venue that will go into an adjoining Victorian-era building. The hotel seems like a particularly odd place to attempt to enforce any sort of dress code: Moxy is a Marriott brand built on luring hard-partying millennials. The lobby features a check-in stand that doubles as a bar serving 8 a.m. cocktails along with a game room outfitted with hot pink lights, inflatable flamingos, and an ironically placed rotary telephone.
This post has been updated to include a response from Atlas Restaurant Group
- A Baltimore-Based Restaurant Group That’s Expanding to DC Is Under Fire for Its Strict (Some Say Discriminatory) Dress Codes [W]
- When is a dress code discrimination? Rules at Baltimore’s Choptank restaurant cause outcry [BS]
- Critics say a new Baltimore crab house is targeting minorities with its strict dress code [WaPo]
- Baltimore’s Booming Atlas Restaurant Group Is Making Its D.C. Debut Inside the Moxy Hotel [EDC]
- Inside Moxy Hotel’s New Millennial-Friendly Game Room Bar Downtown [EDC]