BALTIMORE (WJZ) — State Sen. Jill Carter is calling for a boycott of Atlas Restaurant Group in the wake of the latest dress code controversy involving one of its restaurants.
Earlier this month, a video circulated on social media showing a manager of Ouzo Bay refusing service to a woman and her son, who is Black, due to the boy wearing athletic shorts. In the video, his mother can be heard asking why a similarly-dressed boy, who is White, was allowed to dine at the restaurant.
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Last year, a dress code at another Atlas property, Choptank in Fells Point, drew criticism and was later changed.
Carter, a longtime customer of multiple Atlas restaurants, said she has also seen discrimination firsthand at some of the locations. In an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun over the weekend, she outlined multiple examples in which she recalled seeing the dress code applied unfairly at the Loch Bar and Bygone.
“There’s a pattern and practice of discrimination with Atlas,” she told WJZ on Monday.
That led her to call for a boycott of Atlas’ 15 Baltimore restaurants, most of which are in the city’s Harbor East neighborhood.
“If you do not want to have business from Black people in a majority-Black city, this is not the right city where you should profit,” she said.
In a statement, Atlas said in part they “wish she would have shared her experiences at the time. They would have been addressed immediately, like we do with any customer concern.”
Baltimore City Council President and Democratic nominee for Mayor Brandon Scott called the incident at Ouzo Bay “outright racist.”
He urged Atlas to lift its dress code at all of its locations, something the company said its newly-formed corporate social responsibility board is discussing. On Thursday, Atlas announced dress codes at the Bygone and Maximon restaurants in Harbor East would be lifted.
Carter, meanwhile, wants the incident to spark debate on bringing more diverse businesses to Harbor East. She also requested the city’s Community Relations Commission open an investigation into discrimination in public accommodations.
“This one company that seems to have a monopoly in Harbor East, and how can we maybe eliminate some of that… and open it up to… Black-owned businesses, non-discriminatory White businesses,” she said.
Atlas Restaurant Group’s full statements in response to Carter’s and Scott’s comments are as follows:
Regarding Senator Carter:
Reading the column by Senator Carter, a long-term, repeat customer, was very surprising. If she had these concerns, we wish she would have shared her experiences at the time. They would have been addressed immediately, like we do with any customer concern. While we respect Senator Carter’s life experiences, it is incredibly unfair and unwarranted to call the organization or its owners racist. Upon learning of this horrible incident, we have taken full responsibility and will continue to take many steps to address this incident and reinforce our lasting commitment to equity, fairness and inclusion for everyone.
Regarding Council President Scott:
We certainly respect the opinions of Councilman Scott and many others who have expressed themselves during this time – we are listening carefully, with a view toward continued action which improves our company over the long-term. The dress code, and its implementation, will be among the many elements discussed by our new Corporate Social Responsibility Advisory Board, which is currently in the formation stage. We believe that process is as important as outcome, which is why we are building the inclusive advisory function which creates long-term sustainable change.