Restaurant Dress Code Furor

Tattoos but no tank tops? Restaurants have a perfect right to tell you how to dress

Get real: Restaurants have a perfect right to tell you how to dress

Pico's Mex Mex on Kirby interior with crowd March 2014
Pico's doesn't serve people in tank tops. Thank goodness. Pico's Mex Mex/Facebook

No shirt. No shoes. No service.

Whether that's explicitly posted in a restaurant or not, most people understand that they need to dress a certain way before going out to eat. Anyone who walks in shirtless to a restaurant should expect to be refused entry — even if he looks like J.J. Watt. 

From that agreed upon minimum standard for attire, restaurants have fairly wide discretion over who they do or don't admit. As long as that standard is applied equally, and not used as a pretext for denying access to people based on factors like their race or ethnicity, then diners can choose either to conform to the dress code or eat elsewhere. 

Monica Richards notes that the restaurant offered Patterson a sleeved shirt to wear so that he could stay and dine. He refused and went to Pappasito's instead.

Just last year, the Houston Press published two separate stories of people being refused entry to fine dining restaurant Da Marco because they were wearing sneakers. While that seems a little fuddy-duddy given how casual most of society is (and, frankly, how much money some people spend on sneakers), the restaurant has the right to risk losing customers by being so old-fashioned. 

Which brings me to an article published in the Chronicle on Wednesday in which Bradford Patterson, who owns the bar Darwin's Theory near Washington Ave, complains that he was refused service at Mexican restaurant Picos because of his tattoos and "sleeveless shirt." 

Of course, the restaurant tells a very different story. Picos welcomes people with tattoos but does not admit men with exposed armpits. In a post on Facebook, Picos beverage director Monica Richards, daughter of owners Arnaldo and Janice, notes that the restaurant offered Patterson a sleeved shirt to wear so that he could stay and dine. He refused and went to Pappasito's instead.

Pico's has certain standards, which it chose to uphold rather than take Patterson's money. Rather than adhere to those standards, Patterson ate elsewhere. His choice. Free country and all that. 

Let's be real for a moment. If a shirt doesn't have sleeves, it's not really a shirt. It's a tank top. Great for the gym. Perfect at the beach. Totally unacceptable in a restaurant like Picos that has an upscale atmosphere and appearance. 

Personally, I applaud Pico's for standing its ground and not bending its rules to avoid an unpleasant confrontation with a customer. Tattoos are awesome. I don't have any, but I find myself admiring other people's all the time. On the other hand, armpit hair is not awesome. Nobody wants to see it while they're eating.

Let's all agree to dress like adults when we go out to eat. It'll make our world a slightly more pleasant place.

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