Yes, Bar Louie's dress code is racist

Yes, Bar Louie's dress code is racist
Photo by Louie Baur via Flickr

On Tuesday, City Pages published an article about Bar Louie's dress code policy. The sign outside the Uptown bar restricted entry to anyone wearing baggy pants, flat-brimmed hats, large chains worn outside the shirt, sleeveless shirts, athletic apparel, jerseys without collars, and long white t-shirts after 9 p.m. on Thursdays through Sundays. The comments were disturbing, to say the least. See also: Is Bar Louie's new dress code racist? Bar Louie sued by Dylan Berg, HIV-positive ex-server, after he was removed from schedule

Here's a small taste:

"As we all know the negro's refuse to act like civilized human beings no matter where they go. From spitting all over patio's to smoking their blunts, swearing and screaming into a phone they, are a public nuisance and white people are fucking sick of sugar coating it as not to be considered a racist."

"Heck no. I want to be able to go to places where people dress respectfully. I agree 100%. I'm tired of looking at people's underwear because their pants are around their knees. Sick of people spouting their attitudes and egos from under their flat brimmed hats. Go to the Station on Broadway and kick it if you want to be tough like that. I'm done with it.. "

"You have to fit a cookie cutter image everywhere you go. School, work, the movies, grocery store, ect. Every private business has the right to refuse service for any reason they want. Don't like it that way? Then I guess you should stay home and look like a 12 year old wannabe gangster. Grown people shouldn't need to sag their pants and can put more than an undershirt on to go out."

Scattered throughout the almost 500 comments (which, based on Facebook profile pictures, were largely written by white people) were a number of first-hand accounts from residents who have experienced racial profiling at Minneapolis bars and clubs. Those who asserted that the dress code was racist or claimed to have experienced profiling directly were met with comments like, "Oh fuck off you fat cunt," "Sounds like someone never got laid. :-( poor dat," and "nobody wants you there anyhow, believe me."

What the hell, Minneapolis?

Staunch racism is lurking just beneath our city's progressive veil. As soon as we're cloaked behind keyboards, the Minnesota nice front is thrown out the window, revealing some atrocious truths. Again and again, our commenters proved that Bar Louie's dress code is, in fact, a race issue, whether or we want to admit it.

The dress code and others like it are not overtly race-driven, but they revolve around a stereotype that's usually thrown on young black males. Though it's true that hip-hop's rise in popularity has inspired people of all races, genders, and class backgrounds to adapt similar styles, the clothing items Bar Louie is targeting have their roots in black culture.

Yes, the stereotype is problematic. Not all white people wear pleated slacks, button up shirts, and yachting caps, and not all black people wear baggy jeans and long gold chains. It's a shitty generalization, but it's one that Bar Louie seems set on perpetuating in order to keep "thugs" out of their establishment.

Let's take a closer look at some of the clothing items Bar Louie now prohibits, starting with "long chains worn outside the clothing." Will women who walk in wearing chunky gold necklaces be denied entry? Probably not. Since Bar Louie is clearly basing this dress code on stereotypes, I presume they view women as passive, submissive, and nonviolent. Women are not the people Bar Louie is trying to keep out. Bar Louie is talking about bling. They're talking about hip-hop fashion. They're referring to an image of black male youths that they've likely associated with hooliganism and violence.

Bar Louie has also banned long white t-shirts without specifying how long is too long. The same goes for baggy pants. Will Bar Louie have measuring tape at the front door to measure the distance between people's denim and thighs? Of course not -- they're looking for an overall image. They won't be going through a checklist. They'll be looking you up and down, trying to decide whether you fit the forbidden stereotype.

A number of our commenters wrote about being denied entry to Bar Louie for wearing flat-brimmed hats, though white men wearing the same style of hats were seated a few steps away. The accounts are reminiscent of a story from 2009, when a group of six Washington University students were denied entry to The Original Mother's during a class trip to Chicago. Their sin: wearing excessively baggy pants.

The students, all of whom were black, offered to return to their hotel and change, but the manager insisted they would still be denied entry.

"Alarm bells went off in my mind automatically," Regis Murayi told NPR. "A lot of times, baggy-jeans policies are used, in my opinion, to reject a certain demographic, mostly black men, from being allowed entry into certain places."

After witnessing several white students wearing similarly baggy clothing enter the bar, he decided to see what would happen if he switched pants with a white classmate.

The classmate, though three inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter, was allowed entry wearing the same pants Murayi was denied in.

Murayi and his friends were law students. They were on a school trip. They weren't attempting to hit up the bar after participating in a drive-by shooting.

This isn't about having "class." If it were, dress code signs would specify that clothing couldn't be torn up or dirty and my scrubby self would immediately be turned away for showing up in my signature torn-up fishnets, dirty t-shirt, and sneakers. Instead, the dress code implicitly suggests that in order to enter the bar, you must leave your personal preferences and/or cultural roots behind and dress in a "dignified" -- a.k.a. "whiter" -- fashion.

Sure, Bar Louie will probably turn away a few white dudes for wearing flat-brimmed hats, but the core issue is clear: This is a racial issue.

In the initial Fox 9 story on Bar Louie's dress code, Minneapolis resident Michelle Horovitz told Fox 9 that the restrictions were like the "new Jim Crow being enforced in a colorblind way."

I agree. Almost 50 years after the abolition of segregation laws in the United States, it's clear that business owners are still finding not-so-subtle loopholes to keep people separated and afraid of each other.

If your business enforces a dress code like Bar Louie's, you can bet I won't be there. Hit 'em where it hurts, y'all.

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