A popular Fort Worth, Texas, bar accused of enforcing stringent dress codes meant to exclude African-American patrons is now facing a federal lawsuit.
In a complaint filed Wednesday, Stephen Acheampong of Philadelphia says he was turned away twice while visiting the bar in March 2018 for allegedly violating dress code. Meanwhile, non-Black patrons in similar clothing were admitted without issue.
The suit further claims the pub has a history of denying entry to people of a certain color.
“Being kept out of Varsity Tavern because of my race was embarrassing and made me feel defeated,” Acheampong said in a statement, adding: “I didn’t feel like I had the same right to enjoy the bar as everyone else did.”
The pre-med student is one of a few who’ve filed charges of discrimination with the Fort Worth Human Relations Commission after experiencing poor treatment at the bar, the Star-Telegram reports. Acheampong was in town for spring break, enjoying a night out with friends when a Varsity Tavern bouncer denied him entry.
He was told he couldn’t go in because he was wearing Air Jordan sneakers.
Suspecting the denial was racially motivated, Acheampong and his friend Sam Sayed returned to the bar about an hour later, this time wearing each other’s shoes. Sayed, who’s white and sported the Air Jordan shoes this time, was allowed inside and Acheampong, now wearing boat shoes, was admitted as well.
The friends swapped back their shoes once inside, only for a bouncer to give Acheampong the boot again because he was wearing Jordans.
“So let me clarify Varsity’s Jordan rule. It’s not that they don’t allow Jordan’s in their establishment — they do not allow BLACK PEOPLE with Jordan’s in their establishment,” his friend Sayed wrote in a Facebook post blasting the blatant discrimination.
Christopher Smith, who’s also suing, levied similar allegations against the bar, saying he was turned away because of his tan boots and his cousin’s ripped blue jeans. However, they could see white patrons inside the bar wearing ripped jeans, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit goes on to cite public online reviews describing the bar’s racist policies, including one that read: “[Varsity Tavern] won’t let certain people in based on race or what they’re wearing.”
This discrimination reportedly extended to staff, with managers reportedly allowing white workers to sit at the bar and order a drink while forbidding Black and Hispanic employees from having drinks at the bar. Instead, they were required to take their drinks back into the kitchen and enjoy them there, according to a former chef for the bar.
Varsity Tavern has previously denied the discrimination claims, saying it takes the allegations “very seriously” and “absolutely doesn’t tolerate or condone” such behavior. It had defended its strict dress code, however, claiming it’s necessary to curb “gang activity,” the Star Telegram reports.
Atlanta Black Star reached out to Varsity Tavern for comment and is awaiting a response.