“It’s a cute one,” she said in an exclusive interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It wasn’t like a jogging suit. I had capri pants and a jacket. I thought I looked cute.”
After she was turned away, she took a picture of the dress code.
The Le Bilboquet dress-code policy on April 8, 2021, as shot by Shamea Morton. CONTRIBUTED
Morton then taped a 60-second exchange she had with the restaurant’s general manager Mark Hoefer where she asks him: “Does [the dress code] apply to only certain people?”
Hoefer said, “It’s not that it only applies to certain people.”
Morton: “OK. I’m looking at the Caucasian people like this gentleman right here has on sneakers.”
Hoefer: “We’ve never restricted sneakers.”
Morton: “OK. It says on your sign sneakers.”
Hoefer said no. In fact, the policy does not reference sneakers. But Morton does point out that it mentions “slides” and “flip-flops.”
Morton: “I see people with slides and flip-flops.”
Hoefer: “We’re talking, like, shallow shoes. You know, the things that people wear, like, totally to the beach, or big Nike emblem on them.”
Morton: “I’m looking at somebody with slides on.”
Hoefer: “Ma’am. Those are very nice dress sandals.”
Morton: “Those are very nice?”
Hoefer: “Those are very pretty.”
Morton: “So my track suit isn’t pretty?”
Morton: “This is the third time this has happened to me at Le Bilboquet and I don’t know why I keep coming back here.”
She said that “when you’re there and experience that, they’re looking you up and down like you’re disgusting. I can’t put words to it. It’s such a bad feeling.”
A previous time, she recalled being rejected from the restaurant for wearing ripped jeans but she didn’t protest.
Morton said she called an attorney about the track suit incident after it happened, feeling that white patrons wearing slides were given favored status. He told her to wait to see if anything else happens before taking any action. Morton said she was out of the country during the Wilkins situation.
“My mind was blown this happened to Dominique,” she said.
She decided to publicize her experience now after hearing this had happened to other Black folks as well.
Morton, who does in-game hosting and reporting for Atlanta Hawks games, said in all her years in Atlanta, Le Bilboquet is the only restaurant she’s ever been turned away from because of what she wore.
The dress-code policy, which is available at the restaurant, is also on its website: “Collared shirts are suggested for gentlemen. Casualwear including baseball caps, flip-flops, slides, excessively revealing clothing, cut-offs, sweat pants and athletic attire are considered too informal for the dining experience we provide at Le Bilboquet.”
The restaurant told the AJC it has taken the following actions after the Wilkins incident.
First, we will provide diversity, equity and inclusion training to all current employees and require it as part of our employee onboarding process moving forward.
Second, we are reevaluating our dress code and eliminating any ambiguities that may lead to misunderstandings.
Third, we are establishing more rigid protocols to ensure all policies, including our dress code, are consistently and equitably enforced by staff. This will include providing staff with communication training to make certain all messages to guests are clearly conveyed and appropriately delivered.
In response to Morton’s situation, the restaurant referred back to this statement.