Atlas Restaurant Group apologized and fired some employees after a Black mother and son were turned away from a Baltimore restaurant because of the latter’s attire.
Marcia Grant and her 9-year-old son were not allowed to eat at Ouzo Bay on Monday because the boy was wearing basketball shorts. Grant recorded part of an argument she had with a manager and posted two videos on her Facebook page.
“They’re telling me that my son can’t eat here because there’s no athletic wear. He’s 9,” Grant said in one of the clips. “And there’s kids out there with tennis shoes on.”
Grant’s son was wearing a black Air Jordan shirt with the brand’s name written in white and a large Jordan logo printed on front. He paired the top with black basketball shorts striped with gray and a pair of tennis shoes. The manager told Grant athletic wear was not allowed in the restaurant and suggested she take her son home to change.
During the confrontation, Grant pointed out the attire of a white child who Had been dining in the restaurant. The boy, like Grant’s son, was wearing a T-shirt, shorts and tennis shoes.
“But that white boy there with his tennis shoes on and his athletic shirt,” Grant said before she panned the camera to show the white child.
“We allow tennis shoes but don’t allow athletic shorts and t-shirts,” the manager replied.
“You telling me that’s not an athletic shirt? But you’re telling me that little boy who just ate where does not have on an athletic shirt?”
The exchange went on for a few more moments before the manager claimed the white child’s attire isn’t considered athletic.
“The T-shirt that the little kid was wearing we don’t consider that to be [an] athletic T-shirt,” the manager said.
“Why?” Grant replied.
“Honestly, I did not get a good look but it looked like a regular T-shirt,” he replied.
Grant also posted a picture of a dress code sign which barred activewear, gym clothing and sweats. However, there was no mention of T-shirts or shorts, athletic or otherwise.
Grant’s videos went viral and have received more than 315,000 views. The attention caused Yelp to shut down Ouzo Bay’s listing after it was inundated with negative reviews.
“Trash!! Shut them down! Racists own this restaurant,” wrote one reviewer. “Only worried about changing the dress code and not that a 9-year-old black boy will have to grow up scarred from this situation. Shame on YOU!”
“Food is way overpriced and their dress code only applies to blacks. So, if you’re looking for an overpriced lackluster whitewashed dinner, Ouzo Bay in Baltimore is the place for you! Or really any Atlas Group racist restaurant,” wrote another.
Atlas Restaurant Groups apologized for the incident and announced the manager was placed on leave in a statement on Monday night.
“This should never have happened, the manager seen in the video has been placed on indefinite leave. We are sickened by this incident,” the statement read. “We sincerely apologize to Marcia Grant, her son and everyone impacted by this painful incident.”
The company also revealed changes to its dress code policy.
“As a result, we immediately revised our dress code policy so that children 12 years old and younger who are accompanied by an adult, will not be subject to a dress code at any Atlas property. From a management perspective, there is a level of sensitivity, discretion, and customer service we expect, and this incident will serve a teachable moment to ensure it is not repeated,” the statement continued.
The following day, Atlas announced two managers were fired and a thorough investigation is pending.
This is the second time an Atlas restaurant has been involved in a dress code scandal. Choptank, another Baltimore-area restaurant, was accused of using a posted dress code to discriminate against Black and Latino patrons. Banned items included baggy clothes, athletic wear, work boots and sunglasses after dark, per The Baltimore Sun. A note the sign stated, “management may enforce these policies within its discretion.”
The company removed some of the rules and the discretion disclaimer. However, Atlas claimed the company was being targeted by “false accusations” of racism. Atlas founder Alex Smith called the Choptank situation “unfortunate” because “a brand new, beautifully-restored landmark in the Fells Point neighborhood, which has created more than a 100 badly-needed jobs for the community, is under scrutiny.”