A video posted on social media Monday shows a Black woman and her son being denied service at Ouzo Bay in Baltimore’s Harbor East because of how the boy was dressed — while a white child, dressed similarly in athletic apparel, was allowed to dine at the restaurant.
Hours after the video was posted, Atlas Restaurant Group, which owns Ouzo Bay, condemned the incident, saying they were “sickened” to see the video. The restaurant also said in a statement Tuesday that the two managers involved in the incident were fired. The employees were not named.
“This should have never happened,” the company said in a statement posted on Twitter. “We sincerely apologize to Marcia Grant, her son and everyone impacted by this painful incident. This difficult situation does not represent who or what Atlas Restaurant Group stands for.”
The video shows Grant’s son wearing athletic shorts, tennis shoes and an Air Jordan T-shirt. But when the boy and his mom asked to be seated, they’re denied because a manager said he violated the restaurant’s dress code. When Grant pushes back and points out a white boy who is wearing clothing that appears similar, the manager says the second child isn’t wearing athletic shorts like Grant’s son.
Grant could not be reached for comment.
The incident has drawn national attention amid a movement for equality and justice for Black people in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, also caught on video.
It is not the first time Atlas, which owns several restaurants in Baltimore, has come under fire for its dress code. Its Fells Point restaurant Choptank drew allegations of racial discrimination in September for banning “baggy clothing, sunglasses after dark and bandanas.” The restaurant later modified the dress code but defended itself from the criticism, calling it “unfortunate.”
Ravens offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley responded to the video of the Ouzo Bay incident on Twitter, saying he had a similar experience at Azumi, another Atlas restaurant in Harbor East.
“Remember they tried kicking me out Azumi for the same thing!” said Stanley, tagging Ravens safety Earl Thomas and former Ravens safety Tony Jefferson in the post.
Atlas said it is changing the policy immediately so that children 12 and under who are accompanied by an adult are not subject to the dress code.
“While dress codes across Atlas properties are the result of ongoing input from customers, in no way are they intended to be discriminatory,” Atlas said. “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 updated dress code has been shared with all Atlas properties, the group said, and it is looking at additional ways to expand its diversity and inclusion training and add other educational opportunities.
Atlas said Tuesday the group has tried to connect with Grant but weren’t able to reach her. The restaurant group said it “will continue to try and open up the dialogue” and has launched an internal investigation to review the video, conduct interviews with employees, and gather input from human resources professionals and other experts.
Yelp, the user-generated restaurant review website, temporarily shut down comments on Ouzo Bay’s page, writing that the attention the restaurant has gotten has resulted “in people posting their views to this page.”
“While racism has no place on Yelp and we unequivocally reject racism in any form, all reviews on Yelp must reflect an actual first-hand consumer experience (even if that means disabling the ability for users to express points of view we might agree with),” the explanation reads.
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Baltimore Sun reporter Phil Davis contributed to this article.