Keisha Lance Bottoms says Capital Grille turned her down because of her leggings

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The dress code has caused endless controversy in restaurants. They have been repeatedly criticized as outdated, elitist, confusing and discriminatory.

The final installment in the ongoing saga came this weekend when former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said she was asked to leave a suburban Capital Grille restaurant because she was told the leggings she was wearing appeared to be Violated the ban on “fitness wear”. “I was just turned down @CapitalGrille at Perimeter Mall for wearing leggings,” she tweeted, captioning it with a woman shrug emoji.

She later suggested that she may have been singled out for enforcing the code. Someone responded to her initial tweet by noting that the restaurant’s website outlines its policies. It reads: “Courtesy Note – Appropriate dress code is required for the comfort of all guests and to better fulfill our promise of an elegant atmosphere. Thank you for not wearing: gym clothes, sweatpants, tank tops, hats, clothing with offensive language or images, exposed underwear.”

However, Bottoms hinted that another woman, who appeared to be dressed similarly to hers, would have been allowed to dine there. “Odd that a restaurant in a mall parking lot would turn away customers in ‘mall’ attire,” she replied. “Asked if I could sit in the bar area and was told ‘No.'”

She added: “Rules are the rules, just wondering if the woman who came in immediately after me, who I didn’t see coming out again, was also denied service.”

People responded to her post with photos and messages describing guests they allegedly saw at the Capital Grille in leggings, jogger-style pants, jeans, t-shirts, tank tops and hats.

Attempts to reach bottoms were unsuccessful. People who answered the phone at the Perimeter Mall restaurant referred the Washington Post to a representative from corporate headquarters, who didn’t answer a call, and emails and calls to media contacts at parent company Darden Restaurants went unanswered.

Dress codes have gotten other restaurants in trouble. In Baltimore, the owners of Ouzo Bay restaurant have apologized to a black woman and her son after the woman posted a video of a white manager informing her that her son’s outfit violated the sportswear ban – during a similar one dressed white boy with him his parents dined nearby. Another restaurant operated by the same owners had previously been accused of targeting customers of color by banning items such as pants worn below the waist, hats worn backwards or sideways and construction boots.

Critics say dress codes can be problematic because they are too specific, such as banning garments associated with certain cultures. But vaguely worded rules can also lead to problems, particularly allegations that codes are unevenly enforced. Reuben May, then a sociology professor at Texas A&M University who studied discrimination in nightlife and public lodging, told the Post in 2019 that giving restaurant workers wide discretionary powers can lead to unequal treatment. “It says, ‘We can choose who comes in,'” May said.

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