A New Jersey bar owner is responding to accusations that the dress code for the new restaurant is racist.
Kenny Caulfield is co-owner of The Ashford in Jersey City and he has been forced to explain his dress code policy that was posted outside the bar during a soft opening in December.
The notice, which described the dress code as “upscale business casual” listed a host of prohibited clothing items including oversized jeans or shirts, headgear, ball caps, gym sneakers, athletic apparel, sweatpants or joggers, cargo pants, low or baggy pants, camouflage and oversized jewelry and chains.
Much of the list seemed to target Black attendees, according to those who saw it, and several people let their concerns be known on Yelp.
“This policy seems incredibly racially motivated to me,” said one reviewer named Kristin B. “Sorry, not acceptable. We’ll spend our money elsewhere.”
Another Yelp user by the name of Sam K. said he was “confused with the dress code.”
“My blonde female friend was allowed in with loose sweat pants but for some reason the other guys in our group (who happened to be black and wearing normal looking pants or at least we thought they were), were not allowed in and told by the bouncer they do not let people in pajamas in,” he added.
In response to the hoopla, Caulfield told NJ Advance Media on Jan. 15 that the banned apparel on the sign was posted for one day when the soft opening happened at the end of last year. Since then, he said, the dress code has simplified. Now, the code is just “casual neat” and “dress to impress.”
“That sign, that was a mistake, it was put out and it was rectified straightaway,” Caulfield said. “It was an oversight, you’re busy, you’re not paying attention to every detail. You’re going 100 miles an hour. …The sign was made up, and it wasn’t reviewed properly.”
“It’s about diversity. Everybody’s welcome,” he added. “Have you ever seen the show ‘Cheers?’ That’s my mantra, everybody should know your name, it should be a home.”
In a statement to the New York Daily News Wednesday, Caulfield, who dismissed Yelp criticism, also said, “I want to make it very clear that it had nothing to do with race. We’ve built a very nice place. I expect people to dress nicely. It’s not a construction site and not a gym.”
Co-founder Jeff Lam backed up Caufield’s remarks and said the sign was only posted for “two days” before its removal.
“I’m an ethnic Chinese and I don’t tolerate any kind of discrimination in my establishment. I know full well that how painful the racism has inflicted on people,” Lam told NYDN in a statement. “I hope that we’ve made it clearer that an attempt to delineate a dress code — where perhaps ‘dress to impress’ might have been sufficient — was an error that was quickly corrected once the owners saw that it was misconstrued and perceived as an offense. It was a sign that was up for two days, a few guests commented, and the owners reacted appropriately by removing it. No offense was intended.”