The Baltimore City Council adopted a resolution on Monday urging Atlas Restaurant Group to drop dress codes at its 15 Baltimore restaurants and bars.
Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke introduced the resolution because she was “embarrassed” for Marcia Grant and her son, Dallas, who were turned away from Ouzo Bay in Harbor East two weeks ago. A manager informed Grant, who is Black, that the 9-year-old child’s shorts violated the eatery’s dress code. Meanwhile, in video Grant took at the scene, she pointed out that a similarly dressed white child and his family had been served.
While introducing the resolution, the longtime North Baltimore Democrat said Atlas has a chance to be a leader for other city restaurants to eliminate their own dress codes because they are “too open for interpretation and, intended or not, for discrimination.”
”I want this young man to look back and know he accomplished something and to have a good memory,” the District 14 representative said. “And I want to feel the same way about it as one of his neighbors.”
All but one council member — Leon F. Pinkett III — voted to immediately adopt the resolution.
In explaining his vote, the District 7 West Baltimore Democrat, said a “casual search” of Baltimore establishments shows a number of restaurants with dress codes and that it’s not within the council’s purview to dictate the code of a restaurant.
“Is it our intent to evaluate the dress codes of all of these establishments as well?” said Pinkett, who lost his election bid for City Council president.
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Instead of trying to change the dress code, Pinkett said he would rather people take their business elsewhere to “have the public show them what we think.”
“Atlas is not the problem,” he said. “They are the symptoms. Baltimore doesn’t talk about the burden on Black people.”
The District 7 representative said Baltimore doesn’t invest in its Black communities, pointing toward money spent on the historic Avenue Market on Pennsylvania Avenue compared to Cross Street Market in Federal Hill.
To make Baltimore truly inclusive, Pinkett said, the solution must go “a lot deeper than a Greek restaurant’s dress code.”
Following the June 21 incident, Grant has hired attorneys who said they filed a lawsuit against the company in Baltimore City Circuit Court. Records did not appear in online court records Monday evening, and details of the suit were not available for publication.
Atlas has since dropped the dress code at two of its properties in the Four Seasons Hotel and scaled back dress codes elsewhere. Company founder Alex Smith said the Greek restaurant made a mistake in turning away the mother and son and fired the two managers involved.
But just last week in a statement, Atlas disputed allegations of racism, pointed to its good works and released surveillance photos that showed Black patrons at Ouzo Bay.