A restaurant group in Maryland apologized Monday to a Black boy and his mother after they were denied service due to dress-code violations — even though a white boy was seen in the restaurant wearing similar clothing.
Marcia Grant of Baltimore took to Facebook June 22 to vent about her weekend incident at Ouzo Bay, a Mediterranean restaurant in the city. Alongside a video post of the encounter, Grant wrote that the employee would not let her 9-year-old son, Dallas, in because of his athletic gear.
“I pointed out to them that there was a white child that also had on athletic wear just getting up from dinning there, they still would not let my son eat there!” she wrote. “I have faced racism time and time again, but it’s hard AF, when you have to see your child (9yo) upset because he knows he’s being treated different that a white child!!!”
The social media video, which has generated more than 100,000 views on Facebook, shows a restaurant employee telling Grant that her son’s outfit violates the restaurant’s policy on athletic shorts. The mother then proceeds to point out that a white child is wearing similar clothing and asks why her son is being singled out.
The Shade Room reported that the manager “had a hard time answering Marcia’s question and even suggested if they lived nearby to go home and have Dallas change.”
Grant told the outlet that they had to leave the restaurant.
“He’s 9 years old. It was so hard for him. He goes to a school that’s about 70% white,” she revealed to the Shade Room. “They always teach the kids they are the same. It was really hard for Dallas to see a kid that looked like one of his friends at school sit and eat there and he couldn’t.”
Hours after the video circulated online, Atlas Restaurant Group, which owns Ouzo Bay, apologized on Twitter and condemned the incident.
The company said the manager in the video has since been placed on “indefinite leave,” according to the statement.
“The video clearly shows the woman’s son, an African American young person, wearing athletic shorts and an Air Jordan shirt. The video also shows a Caucasian youth, dressed similarly, who was permitted to dine in the restaurant,” the message from Atlas Group read.
The statement continued, “This should have never happened, the manager seen in the video has been placed on indefinite leave. We are sickened by this incident. We sincerely apologize to Marcia Grant, her son and everyone impacted by this painful incident.”
Atlas representatives said their dress codes are not meant to be discriminatory but that the owners have since revised it to only include ages 13 and above.
All Atlas Employees Will ‘Continue to Receive Diversity and Inclusion Training’
The incident comes amid heightened racial tensions in the U.S. following the May 25 killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died while in white police custody.
Video of Floyd’s death sparked global outrage and calls for police reform, citing systemic racism in law enforcement.
Atlas representatives said its employees will continue to undergo “diversity and inclusion training.”
“We know we failed in this instance and sincerely hope to be afforded the opportunity to meet with the Marcia Grant and her son, who both deserved better,” the Atlas Restaurant Group said in its statement.
This Is Not the First Time Atlas Has Been Criticized for Its Dress Code
Last September,the Baltimore Sun reported that Choptank, a fish and crab house, modified a dress code after it was accused of racial discrimination.
The restaurant initially banned “baggy clothing, sunglasses after dark and bandannas.” The Sun reported that “some interpreted” the accessories “as excluding African American guests.”
Although the group modified its dress code, Atlas Restaurant Group founder Alex Smith called the backlash “unfortunate” that “a brand new, beautifully-restored landmark in the Fells Point neighborhood, which has created more than … 100 badly-needed jobs for the community, is under scrutiny,” according to the Sun.
The company also warned that it could “enforce these policies within its discretion,” the Sun continued.