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Mother, son who were denied service at Ouzo Bay discuss racism on ‘GMA’: ‘It was based on the fact that Dallas was Black’

A Black mother and son who were denied service at the Ouzo Bay restaurant in Baltimore because of how the boy was dressed — while a white child, dressed similarly in athletic apparel, was allowed to dine at the restaurant — spoke publicly for the first time Wednesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

The mother, Marcia Grant, told anchor Michael Strahan she repeatedly pointed out to the restaurant manager that her 9-year-old son, Dallas, and the other child were dressed the same.

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“I can’t really say why they wouldn’t let me in the restaurant originally,” Grant said in the interview. “But once I pointed out to the guy that there was a white kid there with similar dress, I can only imagine that it was based on the fact that Dallas was Black.”

“I kept on insisting that, you know, the white kid has the same thing that Dallas has on, why won’t you let my son in,” she said. “He just would not, regardless of how hard I pushed for [Dallas].”

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After video of the incident was shared widely Monday, Atlas Restaurant Group, which owns Ouzo Bay, apologized, fired the two managers involved in the incident and tweaked its controversial dress code so that it does not apply to children under age 12 who are accompanied by an adult. The employees’ names were not released.

Grant told Strahan the experience was a first for Dallas, who had been wearing an Air Jordan shirt and athletic shorts.

“He goes to a predominately white school ... and they teach the kids that everyone is the same,” she said in the interview. “So for him to see a kid outside [at the restaurant] that looks like one of his friends at school, it was tough for him.”

The incident was a reminder for both Grant and her son, she said, that “we just have to keep on pushing for social justice.”

“He knows I’ll always fight for him,” she said.

The incident at the upscale Greek restaurant in Harbor East drew widespread attention amid a national 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.

On Wednesday evening around 6 p.m., a handful of people stood outside the restaurant to protest the incident, holding signs that said “stop the hate” and “cancel Ouzo Bay.”

It is not the first time Atlas, which owns several restaurants in Baltimore, has come under fire for its dress code. The company changed the dress code at its new Fells Point restaurant Choptank, after it drew allegations of racial discrimination in September for banning “baggy clothing, sunglasses after dark and bandanas.” The restaurant defended itself from the criticism at the time, calling it “unfortunate.”

Odette Ramos, the Democratic nominee for the City Council’s 14th District seat, who is likely to become the city’s first Latina elected official, is calling for a boycott of Atlas Group restaurants.

“I haven’t eaten at the Atlas Group establishments and never will,” Ramos wrote Tuesday afternoon on Twitter. “I’m asking you to do the same.”

The Atlas Restaurant Group includes numerous ambitious restaurants and bars in Baltimore, Boca Raton, Florida, Houston and Washington, D.C. Owner Alex Smith’s roots — and wealth — run deep in the Baltimore area. Smith’s grandfather, John Paterakis, made a fortune through his company, H&S Bakery, and spearheaded the development of Harbor East.

After the latest incident, the company said its dress codes “are the result of ongoing input from customers” and “in no way are they intended to be discriminatory.”

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“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 company said.

Baltimore Sun reporter McKenna Oxenden contributed to this article.

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