Brickhouse’s dress-code sparks student outrage

0
1856
Courtesy of WYDAILY

In mid-December, local bar and restaurant Brickhouse Tavern posted a “Late Night Dress Code” outside their front entrance. Some students quickly took notice and the dress code became a debated topic on the popular Facebook group used by College students and alumnae, Swampy Memes for Twampy Teens. 

The dress code was implemented for bar-goers arriving Friday or Saturday after 10 p.m. Included in the list of items no longer allowed were “do-rags or head bands,” “sagging pants,” “excessively baggy clothing” and “knit hats or beenies.” One Facebook post about the dress code amassed over 80 student comments and spurred conversation with multiple group members, citing it at “racially charged” and “blatant racism.”

When asked to comment, Brickhouse said via Facebook that the code was not new to their establishment and was instituted for safety purposes as well as to meet Virginia ABC standards.

“The dress code is not anything new or resent… it’s been in place for about 4 years, we have instituted, in the past, apparel requirements for late hours only because we have wanted to maintain a certain level of decorum and dress standards,”Brickhouse Tavern said in a written statement. “In addition, our standards have helped us to address legitimate safety concerns and to meet ABC regulations. Furthermore, the dress code is only active during our peak hours Friday and Saturday night 10 pm – close. There is no dress code any other days of the week.”

“The dress code is not anything new or resent… it’s been in place for about 4 years, we have instituted, in the past, apparel requirements for late hours only because we have wanted to maintain a certain level of decorum and dress standards,”Brickhouse Tavern said in a written statement. “In addition, our standards have helped us to address legitimate safety concerns and to meet ABC regulations. Furthermore, the dress code is only active during our peak hours Friday and Saturday night 10 pm – close. There is no dress code any other days of the week.”

Natasha Chambers ’21, an employee at Brickhouse mentioned that the dress code is meant to tackle safety concerns. 

“A lot of the items on the dress code are actually meant to prevent theft, assault, things that cover your face or head.” Chambers said. “It’s because we have cameras, that need to be able to see your face so that we can identify people to the police.”

In addition to understanding why the dress code felt necessary to Brickhouse, Chambers understand her peers’ concerns. Furthermore, she shared how she believed items may have been chosen for the dress code.

“Other items are kind of, blatantly targeting,” Chambers said. “The story that I was told is that there was a group of regulars back when Brickhouse first opened who got very mean, attacking the servers and they just made that list based on what the group always wore.”.

When asked if this policy was explicitly racist in intent, Chambers recognized that changes to the dress code’s wording should be made.

“They should change it,” Chambers  said. “I would make it more general, so nothing that covers your face and nothing that’s super revealing because we are a family restaurant.”

Following the initial Facebook post about the dress code, another student, Joe Barnes ’20, created an event titled, “Everyone Storm Brickhouse Wearing Beanies They Can’t Stop Us All.” The event name was meant to play off of “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us,” which is a Facebook event that garnered national attention in September and became a fairly well-known meme.

Barnes said his event was purely comedic. Regardless, it was relevant to what was unfolding with Brickhouse and became another highly popular post in the group.

When asked how he felt about the dress code, Barnes kept it simple.

“It’s not good,” Barnes said. “I think anyone looking at that would probably see that it’s targeting a population. “I can’t determine intent. But intent doesn’t really matter if the end result is that you’re excluding certain people.”

The senior went on to consider that as a bar, safety concerns are unlikely to be alleviated by a dress code..

“If their goal is a safe environment – you’re a bar that’s open late in a town with four bars, I don’t know how much you can do,” Barnes said. “Rewording would just be more ambiguously doing the same thing.” 

Brickhouse also has two other locations, one in Newport News, VA, near Christopher Newport University and another in Harrisonburg, VA, close to James Madison University. The Brickhouse in Newport News has also implemented a dress code.

“The only thing that we don’t allow is wife-beaters and durags,” Tara Hix said about the Newport News location. The majority of bars don’t allow it, so it is kind of common knowledge and I believe it is posted on our website.” 

The Harrisonburg Brickhouse was reluctant to comment on their dress code and recommended speaking with the owners of the Williamsburg Brickhouse Tavern.

Alumna Srijoni Sengupta ’18 warned against jumping to conclusions about the policy and she shared her disappointment with the exclusion inherent in its wording. 

“I don’t want to outright claim anything, I don’t want to go to any extreme and say Brickhouse Tavern is being racist for implementing no durags,” Sengupta said. “There might be multiple reasons why. There’s always different perspectives behind things so that it’s not good to just label someone off the bat based off of the little information that you do know, but in my opinion as a customer they’re restricting people, potential customers that could come to your business.”

Brickhouse stands by the implementation of a dress code for safety reasons. Barnes and Sengupta, alongside other members in the Facebook group have made their position clear that the dress code should change.

“Considering the historical context of Virginia and how the state itself has battled racism and systemic oppression – all that dress code does is just add to the fire,” Sengupta said.