Baltimore restaurant’s dress code considered racist, because it is

Photo: IrinaBraga (iStock)

The Choptank, a new upscale seafood restaurant in Baltimore, has pissed off a lot of people with its dress code, which specifies the following:

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The dress code and house rules are also posted on The Choptank’s website, though without the final caveat on the sign: “Management may enforce these policies within its discretion.”

It is really, really, really hard, even if you’re being charitable, not to interpret these guidelines as targeting a particular style of clothing, one particularly favored by young Black men. And that is how many have chosen to interpret it. (Hey, when that style is worn by white people who paid a lot of money for their clothes, it’s called “streetwear,” which is probably where management’s discretion comes in.)

Management of The Choptank has claimed that it meant no offense, and that it was just conforming to the standards of the neighborhood.

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The Washington Post, however, actually asked some of those restaurants about their dress codes and found this was not entirely true. Barconina, for example, has no dress code at all. “We’re casual fine dining but basically as long as you don’t come in in your pajamas, you’re okay,” a hostess told the Post. “We’ve never kicked anyone out or anything.” Bond Street only has a dress code after 10 PM on Friday and Saturday night.

The Choptank is owned by the Atlas Restaurant Group, which also owns half a dozen other upscale restaurants in Baltimore. Founder Alex Smith and his brother and co-owner, Eric, are the grandsons of billionaire developer John Paterakis Sr.; according to a profile in Baltimore magazine, Alex Smith is aware of his reputation for being “a complete jerk,” though the overall gist of that profile is that he is not.

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Anyway, that’s all beside the point, I guess. But why would you want to eat at a restaurant that has a written policy to keep other people out? The dress code at The Choptank is all about things you can’t wear. That’s not hospitality. If you’re after some appearance of elegance and decorum, why not just say, “Jacket required” and provide a collection of jackets just in case someone walked in unprepared?

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Aimee Levitt

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.