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COVER- Dressing down: Was this bar speaking in Code?

Published March 22, 2007 in issue 0612 of the Hook

Are big, baggy clothes bad news? Owners of Jaberwoke restaurant on the Corner recently decided the answer is yes. People sporting such duds, they claim, are more likely to be rude to staff and start fights in their establishment. So a month ago, citing "safety" and a wish to encourage "better behavior," the owners imposed a dress code banning various articles of clothing at Jaberwoke and their other two restaurants, The Virginian and West Main.

The action ignited a firestorm.

Banned items included white t-shirts, oversized t-shirts, baggy jeans, sweatpants, and hats without brims-- in other words, the threads of choice of hip-hop music fans.

"It ain't dress; it's race," declared an outraged Rick Turner, local NAACP president and UVA's former Dean of African American Affairs at a meeting at the restaurant last week. "You really don't want black people in your bar."

It wasn't just Turner who was angry.

Controversy raged in the pages of the Cavalier Daily, and a new group suddenly sprang up on the popular student networking website, Facebook. Then came resolutions passed by UVA Student Council and the UVA chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. 

The heat convinced Jaberwoke co-owner Anderson McClure to attend a packed student council meeting on Tuesday, March 20, and to call a public meeting at Jaberwoke on Wednesday afternoon, March 21. Nearly 50 students, most of them African American, filled Jaberwoke for the two-hour confab.

"The policies you've implemented are flawed," argued one female student. "They're based on preconceived notions."

"Making assumptions about these clothes is wrong," said another, and still others noted the irony that a restaurant that hosts a hip-hop night each Thursday would ban the clothing associated with the music. While students took turns and raised hands before commenting, tension erupted.

"Put away your cigarette," ordered one female student to audience applause, offended that McClure was smoking during the meeting. She demanded to know whether McClure would target red t-shirts if he thought they might spark violence. Others asked if he'd ban polo shirts if he noticed fights breaking out among the preppy set. 

"Absolutely," McClure responded.

The debate spread online at the Facebook website.

"Did they seriously think we'd be too dumb to notice that their actions were clearly targeting blacks?" asked a poster, one of more than 400 members of the group dubbed "Hoos Against Jaberwoke."

A March 20 Cavalier Daily op-ed considered the complexity of the code. "Like a law forbidding rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges," writes Alex Solotorovsky, "a general prohibition on clothing worn primarily by young black men is a facially neutral rule whose greatest impact is felt by a single group."

Another writer, however, found the entire debate ridiculous, noting that clothing, like bars, is a personal choice.

"Those who seriously object to Jaberwoke's policies can walk a tortuous 20 feet to O'Neill's Irish Pub and spend their money there," wrote Cavalier Daily columnist Josh Levy. "A tear fails to fall from my eyes for the poor souls 'forced' to forgo Wednesday night karaoke."

Most attendees at the meeting believed the dress code represented veiled racism, but one African American student defended it.

"You all are lying to yourselves," said Chase Emanuel, a UVA third-year who bartends at the Biltmore Grill on Elliewood Avenue. He cited his own observations working late at night at that Corner area bar. White t-shirts, baggy jeans, and hats without brims are the outfit of choice for many troublemakers. "There is a trend, and you really can't ignore that."

Despite Emanuel's support, 75 minutes into the meeting, as McClure was peppered with questions and accusations of racism, he held up a sheet listing the verboten items.

"This is no longer our dress code," he declared, asking students to consult with him on creating a code more to their liking.

His announcement, however, didn't appease the crowd.

"I don't understand why you need a dress code at all," replied student Sage Garner, referring to the restaurant's other rules that specify unacceptable behavior (which include a ban on customers who don't tip). Another student wondered why McClure would trust them to make business decisions when they have no experience running a restaurant. The conversation returned to racial profiling and discrimination.

The day after the meeting, a frustrated McClure denied the accusations of racism, citing his diverse staff and multicultural clientele. "If you knew me," he says, "you'd know there's not a racist bone in my body." 

The confrontational tone of the discussion "made me sad," he says. "It wasn't productive at all." He was especially disheartened to be presented with resolutions from the UVA Student Council and from the NAACP threatening further action after he had attended the Council meeting to hear students' concerns, and had voluntarily opened the restaurant to host the public discussion.

 "It seems like no matter what I do, I'm going to be attacked," he says. "It's really, really disconcerting."

While McClure felt discouraged in the days after the public forum, those who attended said the meeting had value.

"Definitely productive," says Garner, a member of the UVA chapter of the NAACP, a peer advisor for UVA's Office of African American Affairs, and president of ReMiX, UVA's hip-hop a cappella group. "Members of the student body and Charlottesville community were able to voice their concerns in an effort to be heard and incite change," she says. That the dress code was "stripped," she adds, "is definitely evidence that something was accomplished yesterday."

If Garner and others are pleased that Jaberwoke dropped its dress code, they may now turn their attention to other local establishments with similar policies, including Rapture and O'Grady's.

"We've had a dress code for almost three years," says Mike Rodi, owner of Rapture and the dance club R2. Rodi's code also rules out oversized t-shirts and baggy jeans, partly because of what can be hidden underneath.

"You can conceal a small anti-aircraft carrier under some of those shirts," he says. "We've had people pull out weapons, mostly knives."

Is his dress code racist?

"It's not about skin color," Rodi insists. "If you come into Rapture, half the employees and customers are African American."

When someone-- black or white-- comes to the door in the oversized clothing popularized by hip-hop artists, Rodi says, there are two possibilities: "One is they just like the style, or two, they're embracing this thug identity." Simply telling them about the dress code actually helps bouncers screen for which group they fall into, Rodi says.

"If it's the former, they'll probably go home and change or go somewhere else. If you say it to the latter, they start screaming and cursing. The problems we've had seem almost invariably with guys wearing giant t-shirts."

Garner bristles at the assumption that baggy clothes suggest a prediliction for violence.

"I think it's irresponsible to randomly pick a dress code and think that will solve behavioral problems," she says. "Never has it been proven that banning people who wear baggy jeans prevents violence anywhere."

Despite a lack of hard evidence, a recent Cavalier Daily column suggests that it's not just white people who see a problem with hip-hop attire.  

"Shouldn't we face the claim that McClure as well as older members of our own community have made that this sort of dress is associated with 'thuggish' behavior?" asked author Stephanie Henderson, who also argued that hip-hop attire is not the sartorial choice of only young black men.

"With reality shows like VH1's The White Rapper Show and with a large number of white youth walking around dressed like this," she wrote, "one can see that baggy jeans and white t-shirts are no longer exclusively 'black.'" 

Charlottesville's sole African American City Councilor, Kendra Hamilton, suggests that the banned style of dress could be a way to discourage not only blacks, but lower-income patrons.

"I say, more particularly than blacks, 'townie' kids," says Hamilton. "Some of the items mentioned on the list of banned clothing are recognized styles worn by Charlottesville kids."

Still, she says, Jaberwoke is "a private business with a right to institute a dress code, and dress codes are by nature exclusionary."

Rebecca Glenberg in the Richmond office of the ACLU confirms that, in general, dress codes don't violate civil rights.

"Our concern with dress codes is that they will not be applied in an even-handed way," says Glenburg, who cites an undercover TV news investigation at a club with a dress code in Norfolk. Two young men, one white and the other black, went to the club dressed identically. The white man got in with no problem, Glenberg says, while the African American man was stopped at the door.

"Consciously or not," says Glenberg, "employees might not enforce the dress code in an evenhanded way." 

Biltmore bartender Emanuel says that recently happened when an Asian student tested the fairness of Jaberwoke's dress code by deliberately wearing prohibited clothes to the restaurant and was allowed in. 

"That's blatant racial profiling," says Emanuel. "If that were the reason for the protest and the hoopla, then I would have completely agreed."

"That is terrible," McClure said at the meeting when told of the situation. "If that happened, I take full responsibility," he added, promising to speak to his bouncers.

Hamilton says she hopes the controversy will cause everyone in Charlottesville to "think a little harder" about the profound racial issues and tension that exist and that periodically boil over, as they did in 2005 and 2006 during the eight-month tenure of divisive school superintendent Scottie Griffin. "We live in a divided community," Hamilton says. " There's tracking in the schools. Our neighborhoods are mostly segregated by race. The north side of town has more resources than the southside. The list goes on."

Emanuel, who started working as a bouncer at O'Neill's Irish Pub in August before moving to the Biltmore in December, says McClure wouldn't have had problems if he had made his dress code broader. Emanuel also thinks McClure should have defended the dress code more vigorously at the meeting rather than trying to be "so PC." He thinks if McClure had simply rewritten the dress code to remove any hint of racism, the outcry would have died down quickly.

"This is one of those instances where you have legitimate reasons for a dress code," he says, "but in order to not be misunderstood, it suits everybody better to mask the agenda a little bit."

Columnist Solotorovsky suggested implementing "positive rules such as 'collared shirt' or 'tuck in your shirt' or 'jacket after six.'"  That, he wrote, would separate the "well mannered from the ill mannered without the confrontational tone or racial bias of the Jaberwoke dress code."

And Garner, who acknowledges that dress codes "exist for legitimate reasons in many places, most commonly to create a certain atmosphere that is consistent with the quality of the establisment," agrees that framing a dress code in positive terms would have quelled the controversy.

"If the code had a list of things to wear that did not include white t-shirts, etc., the people who wear those types of clothing would not get in," she says. "The difference is, they wouldn't have been singled out so blatantly."



"It's ridiculous to call for a dress code to push an entire group of people away," says Sage Garner, a member of the UVA chapter of the NAACP.

In response to the dress code, Greg Jackson created the facebook group "Hoos Against Jaberwoke," which now boasts more than 400 members.

Local NAACP president Rick Turner reads the posted dress code at Jaberwoke on March 21.

A little over an hour into the meeting, under pressure from nearly 50 students, Jaberwoke co-owner Anderson McClure repealed the dress code.



I tried to get into a club in DC once and was not allowed in because I was wearing flip flops and patagonia fleece. Thinking back on it I was racially profiled, I'm going to call a meeting.

Give me a break, it is a privately owned establishment and if he feels business is hurt by this type of dress than he has the right to implement any dress code that he wants. If you really want to go there, change, if not go to the next bar.

posted by Jay at 3/29/2007 11:05:26 AM

the flip side of implementing any dress code he wants is that customers are free say what they think about the dress code or boycott the restaurant.

freedom cuts both ways.

posted by Sidonie at 3/29/2007 11:43:48 AM

I suppose if he implemented a dress code that disallowed white robes and pointy hats all the whiners would stay home and watch Greys anatomy instead of coming to our aid. After all we are much more of a minority than blacks.

He is not trying to get rid of blacks he is trying to get rid of trouble. He has a legal duty to keep trouble out. You same crybabies would sue quick if you got knifed by one of these thugs.

posted by david duke at 3/29/2007 12:01:23 PM

I think that when we tend to profile people wearing particular clothing we usually associate it with a certain type of behavior that we’ve witnessed from people with that type of clothing. If this bar owner has had problems with people who wear that type of clothing in his establishment repeatedly then I think it’s totally within his right to say that they can not come in. I think the owner’s first responsibility is to the safety of his patrons and he has the right to police that however he feels will serve the interest of the majority. If you saw a bunch of big white men in the bar with white hoods and white draped sheets on – would you feel comfortable in the establishment? Probably the majority would say no because people who dress in that way have been identified as ignorant and dangerous. Why does it ALWAYS have to be about race? I get so tired of hearing that card played!! I think there are a lot of people who need to start their individual healing process and move forward from this way of thinking!

posted by blah, blah at 3/29/2007 12:12:47 PM

Oh, please, white guys embrace this "look" more than their black brothers, who began it like a decade ago. Honestly, I think McClure has every right to issue a dress code just as any restaurant or club. And patrons have every right to vote with their wallets.

posted by Eminem at 3/29/2007 12:40:03 PM

you're all missing the whole point. of course he has the right to do whatever he wants. the point of students attending the discussion was to let him know how he made his former consumers FEEL, and that is rejected and discriminated against. It's not about reeeeally wanting to go to Jaberwoke--the restaurant food sucks and the service is so terrible it's actually funny. It's about someone proclaiming that their restaurant is something that it's not, and it's about making an assumption that people that look a certain way are going to commit violent acts, which is INACCURATE and just a form of profiling (notice I didn't even say 'racial profiling'). The issue is NOT the dress code, but his specific reasons for it. I was at the meeting, and I expressed my feelings, but I honestly didn't even care about whether or not he changed the dresscode. After being in his presence for more than five minutes, I know I'll never step foot in there again. It's about an ignorant, unprofessional, unintelligent man -- or "man" -- pointing fingers at other people when he can't even run his own establishment. Half of you making these comments are just as bad...just ignorant.

posted by you guys are just as ignorant!! at 3/29/2007 2:09:21 PM

There is a big difference between "whiners/crybabies" and people who are against racial injustice and racial profiling. If you've never been racially profiled I imagine you would be tired of hearing about "the race card," as it woudln't pertain to you or your narrow-minded little world. You know the old adage about walking in someone else's shoes. Unless it has happened to you, then believe me, you have no idea of what you are talking about. So go on and eat at Jabberwacky, and hopefully, sit next to some big white guys in pointy hats. Sadly, I think you'd feel right at home.

posted by Renee Green at 3/29/2007 2:30:46 PM

you know what....if any of you who wrote the first few posts were actually AT the meeting, or if you spoke with the owner for more than 2 seconds, you wouldn't want to go to Jab ever again either. this guy's an idiot.

he's just mad that he got called out for being an idiot. and you're all just too blind or ignorant to understand that he was trying to get away with something and used a dress code as a cover.

think people.

posted by THINK at 3/29/2007 2:38:44 PM

Profiling against one group because of skin color or dress is dangerous and must be stopped at its inception. They will come for "your" group next time, and who is going to be left to defend you? Students must stick together to stamp out this type of archaic behavior. Students Unite!

posted by Katerina at 3/29/2007 3:02:21 PM

first of all, who signs their post, 'David Duke?'Thought no one would catch that? Proves your a dum-dum and your post is just as stupid as your name. Whoever is so crazy as to believe that all young people who wear loose comfortable jeans and white t-shirts are criminals, or have criminal tendencies needs a lot of therapy. Lots. The people who would actually consult a check-list before going into a mediocre dining establishment to make sure they are not breaking "the rules" need therapy also. David Duke, Blah Blah and his big white men in pointy hats need to start their restaurant: The 1950s Going Back in Time Cafe.

posted by Anti-David Duke at 3/29/2007 3:20:42 PM

first of all, who signs their post, 'David Duke?'Thought no one would catch that? Proves your a dum-dum and your post is just as stupid as your name. Whoever is so crazy as to believe that all young people who wear loose comfortable jeans and white t-shirts are criminals, or have criminal tendencies needs a lot of therapy. Lots. The people who would actually consult a check-list before going into a mediocre dining establishment to make sure they are not breaking "the rules" need therapy also. David Duke, Blah Blah and his big white men in pointy hats need to start their restaurant: The 1950s Going Back in Time Cafe.

posted by Anti-David Duke at 3/29/2007 3:20:43 PM

Hey David Duke! That even offends me! Although this is the South, I'd like to think most folks are smart enough to not be so overt about their narrow minded views. Apparently, not everyone is smart. Apparently, you can be STUPID and run a restaurant such as JABBERWACK (haha) Hats off to Katerina who said it the way it is. We have to stick together on this.

Sorry McClure - oops! I mean "David Duke." Ha-Ha. You were "made!"

posted by Gianni at 3/29/2007 4:08:08 PM

Duke: Thugs????? If a bunch of drunk red necks in white t-shirts and baggy jeans started a commotion in a restaurant, would you call them thugs? No, you'd call them highly-inebriated, high-spirited or just men being men. You wouldn't think to call them thugs. No, that's reserved for "other" folk. Duke, you lived up to your name. I bet you are right proud of it!

posted by wHY cANT wE jUS GET aLONG at 3/29/2007 4:19:08 PM

To Jay,

You are racially profiled only if it's based solely on race. Duh. The fact that you said you tried to get into a DC club in flip flops and patagonia fleece and were denied...no, fool, that's not racial profiling. (And come now, no black people I know would even consider dressing like that and trying to seriously go clubbing, so you gave yourself away). You were denied entry because you obviously don't have any good sense. You were racially profiled? Go smoke another blunt and look up the meaning. I wish I had your problems. Dude.

posted by Y ask Y at 3/29/2007 4:52:19 PM

First off i would like to state the fact that Mr. McClure owns two other successful restaurants in this town, one of them has never had a dress code, and he is a graduate of this fine establishment you call UVA. I would like to think that any graduate of UVA would not be considered an idiot.

For those of you that have this preconceived opinion that he is an idiot, do you or have you ever owned a business before? What lengths would you go to too protect your investment? If there was a certain type of dress that was associated with the problems you were having would you continue to allow that to happen knowing that it could damage your reputation in a very competitive bar scene? This is not a racial issue, all it is doing is protecting people that want to go out and have a good time and don't want to worry about being stabbed or shot or watching drug deals go down in bathrooms. If you don't like the dress code, fine go some where else. It is that easy. If you want to go to a place that has a dress code comply to it! You act as if this is the first time anyone has ever implemented a dress code in this country. Get over it!!!

posted by a customer at 3/29/2007 5:49:03 PM

dear "a customer," are YOU a business owner? if so, i would hope that you would be in favor of good business practices, rather than poor ones. McClure cobbled together a poorly worded, poorly thought-through policy and he allowed his staff to implement it inconsistently (though I think the wording of the policy made it hard for them--how baggy is too baggy? is a "brimless cap" a skully, a do-rag, a wool winter cap, a yarmulke, or all of the above? is a sorority girl's nice white t-shirt prohibited, or just the kind black guys wear?)

He equivocated when he defended his policy; he said at one point that he was trying to create a more upscale atmosphere. Anyone who's ever been inside Jaberwoke saw through that explanation right away, as they would know that nothing else about the place received an upgrade. Moreover, frat-type guys in grotty shirts, destroyed jeans, and falling-apart ball caps still abounded throughout the place. The speciousness of that argument was pretty apparent.

So overall I see bad business decisions from beginning to end. It's painful, but the consequences of mishandling your business's public relations can turn out this way.

posted by Sidonie at 3/29/2007 6:35:50 PM

The comment about the "thugs" and then someone comes back with "drunk red necks" in their example is the pinnacle of hypocrasy. way to go. it's not often that someone can shoot down their own argument in their opening sentence.

posted by hah at 3/29/2007 7:47:17 PM

Hmm...shootings, stabbings and drug deals in the bathroom? Oh My! Call the authorities! Why is this dive still open? I'm simply agahast and appalled. Has this all happened? Or is afigment of your active imagination (or are you really Mr. McClure???). If all of this is happening in Jabberwocke, and if you are still a customer, what kind of discriminating taste could you possibly have to frequent such a joint? Sounds frightening and I will never dine there again. Thanks for the tip-off! Gives folks another reason to boycott! Like it says wisely above, stop being racial and just think about it, people. T-H-I-N-K.

posted by For "A Customer" at 3/29/2007 7:56:44 PM

After the effective date hereof it shall be unlawful to introduce fluorine, or sodium fluoride, or any compound thereof into the city's public water system unless the voters of the city approve the same in a referendum called and held under section 24-141 of the Code, as amended; such referendum to be initiated by a petition seeking introduction of such chemicals filed with the council as hereinafter set forth. The petition shall be signed by qualified voters equal in number to ten percentum of the largest number of votes cast in any general or primary election held in the city during the five years immediately preceding, each signature to which has been witnessed by a person whose affidavit to that effect is attached to the petition. If a majority of the voters voting in the election approve, fluorine, sodium fluoride, or a compound thereof may be added to such water supply; but, if a majority so voting, vote against them then neither fluorine, sodium fluoride, nor any compound thereof shall be added to such water supply system. If a referendum is held hereunder another referendum is held hereunder another referendum thereon shall not be held until the expiration of two years.

posted by Charlottesville City Charter, 1962, Section 14-b. at 3/29/2007 8:40:36 PM

I am so sick of all the childish banter of certain individuals who take a simple policy and twist it to fit what they believe to be a race related issue. All of you UVA students who have raised so much hell about the issue of the dress code at jaberwoke....congrats, you have had your names printed in the paper, you have proven that you are still not over issues stemming from a past that you great grandparents and possibly your grandparents had to deal with but in no way are you dealing with anything remotely the same....but you still feel the need to carry on the spark to light a flame under an issue just to pass the torch. I was there for the meeting, I sat there and shut my mouth just so I could listen to the ignorance being purged from all of those who came to discuss a dress code, but really just came to point fingers and call someone a racist. Oh and must I say; here's to you Mr. I am going to stand up in the middle of a discussion that is supposed to be about a dress code and try and rile up a bunch of students and start a riot NAACP man, great job, you tried your hardest, but so sad, no riot :( It takes balls the size of grapefruits to be called a racist and then call a meeting of the people condemning you to discuss the issue. Mr. McClure did something few would ever do, and someone who was truly a racist would not have the courage to stand in front of all of those pointing fingers and take your crap. I also very much enjoyed the pure passion the one female student had when she demanded that Mr. McClure put out his cigarette, how nice that you took the time out of your day to fight the war on racism and you still find the time to protect the world from second had smoke in an establishment and a state where we are very lucky to still have the right to smoke indoors. Say what you will about Jaberwoke and its service, or lack there of from the point of view of most, but that is something that can be fixed, what can't be fixed is the ignorance and the stupidity of so many who have nothing better to do with their day. I guess here is where my thoughts end and the attack begins from all of you who are so tightly wound and want to call me a racist too when you have no clue as to who I am. Well go ahead and say it, walk tall and be proud and call me a racist, the humility I find in what I know will happen is that you know me just as well as I am sure you know Mr. McClure, you will bash me, bash my comments, you might even bash how I wrote this; to that I have to say the hell with you, I don't want to associate myself with anyone who decides to go as far as calling someone a racist without knowing who they are or what they stand for. Oh, one last thing...to the angry gentleman who was standing up front during the meeting at Jaberwoke (SORRY I DID NOT HAVE THE PLEASURE OF GETTING YOUR NAME) but I enjoyed your remark as you walked out about the "crackers" at the meeting who didn't have anything to say! Bravo my friend.

posted by Sick and tired! at 3/29/2007 9:18:40 PM

Now you've heard of it.

posted by The Bilderberg Group at 3/29/2007 9:18:48 PM

I be happy dat dey be keep out da riffs raffs so's me and spanky cans enjoy dem drunk sority gals wit da big boobies day daddies bought dem for day birfday. I be learned in the first grade dat da teacher be in charge of da school yard. Da schoolyard be belong to da owner of da jabberwacky and he be gits to decide who plays and who don't. Ifs you don't's like it den change yo drawers and cums back. Days gots plenty of beer for everbody.

posted by Buck wheat at 3/29/2007 9:28:21 PM

Edit: I will not try and take the past anguish that African Americans have faced, so please add you parents to the list of family who had to deal with the what racism really was back then. However, in todays society, especially in this case, all that is being done is a weak attempt to try and prove that every little thing is race related....people, this was not one of them....dig somewhere else, and please, if Jaberwoke is all you are going to take on then this is a joke anyway...take on all establishments with dress codes...hell take on NYC..or better yet, every establishment in every state that you "think" or "feel" is being racist by banning certain clothing.

posted by Sick and tired! at 3/29/2007 9:31:06 PM


This was a private business venture from the very beginning. These good ol’ boys had more money than the city anyway, and they neither needed nor wanted a handout. Sure, the parking rate was kept low, but that was done with the customer in mind - a noble action. He was the customer of: Charlottesville Hardware Co, or Keller and George, or the Jefferson-Lafayette Theatres, or National Bank and Trust Co., or Gilmore, Hamm & Snyder, or The Peoples Bank of Charlottesville, or Timberlake’s, or The Young Men’s Shop, or Citizens Bank & Trust Co., or Mille