Restaurant says he was turned away due to dress code but Atlanta Hawks legend says it was racism
An Atlanta restaurant apologised for turning away former NBA player Dominique Wilkins, but maintained that race was not a factor for applying its dress code standards to the nine-time All-Star.
The 61-year-old retired Atlanta Hawks legend alleged that French-style bistro Le Bilboquet refused to serve him because of the colour of his skin on Saturday.
“In my many years in the world, I’ve eaten at some of the greatest restaurants in the world, but never have I felt prejudice or been turned away because of the colour of my skin, until today,” Wilkins tweeted with an image of the restaurant.
In a statement posted online, the restaurant apologised for “any confusion our dress code may have caused”, referring to the restaurant’s published business casual dress code, which says on the website sweat pants and athletic attire are considered too informal for its dining experience.
“We in no way intended for him to feel unwanted, and welcome an open dialogue with him,” the statement said. “Our upscale dining experience and our brand’s culture is made up of multiple elements, which include our music, our food and our patrons’ attire.”
In an interview with local Atlanta broadcaster CBS46, Wilkins said he was “dressed very sporty, casual” but that he knew racism having grown up experiencing it.
“I had a nice pair of casual pants on with a stripe, nice red shirts, and sneakers on,” Wilkins told CBS reporter Melissa Stern.
“As I’m walking in, I notice right away, that they’re sizing me up, they’re looking me up before I even said a word,” he said, adding that a staff member told him there were no reservations.
He said the host mentioned his sweatpants and said they were “trying to keep a level of elegance”.
“During this time, I’m seeing people walk up in shorts, sneakers, and shirts on…” Wilkins said. “I know racism, I grew up with it, I’ve had a cross burning in my yard when I was in high school.”
While Le Bilboquet did not immediately respond to The Independent’s request for comment, general manager Mark Hoefer said race was not a factor but that he would personally apologise for the incident.
“I’ve cheered for him for many years when I was growing up, and he’s done nothing but good for this community,” Mr Hoefer told the outlet.
He added that the restaurant’s dress code did not have an issue with shorts or jeans but was specifically regarding sweatpants or athletic wear.
“He was turned away because he was not in compliance with our dress code, it has nothing to do with the colour of his skin,” Mr Hoefer said.
“He was in track pants, and we were being consistent with our policy, if we would have let him because of his celebrity status, we would have been discriminatory toward everyone we’ve turned away, based on that same policy.”
In a series of follow-up tweets, Wilkins said he didn’t expect any special treatment and that he would have been fine if he was turned away because there were no tables.
“When I first got there, they said no tables, then they said I was not dressed fashionably enough. I guess if there were no tables, then why the follow up comment?” he tweeted.
“But they looked me up and down before that and then said that and to add insult, talked about how my clothes were not appropriate when I was wearing designer casual pants and a shirt.”