The topic of respectability politics arose again this weekend after a popular soul food restaurant in Houston, Texas, unveiled a dress code policy that spurred anti-Black accusations aimed at Black patrons.
Turkey Leg Hut became one of the hottest spots in the city, offering different enticing varieties of turkey legs doused in different dressings like crawfish macaroni, along with an atmosphere of club vibes, music and fun, including dish offerings of flavorful cocktails, desserts and hookah.
But after a good run in the city’s Third Ward community, things turned sour when the restaurant released a strict dress code via a message on social media on Friday. In the post the restaurant demands patrons refrain from wearing “excessively revealing clothing,” “no house attire,” and prohibits baggy clothes and swimsuits.
The caption reads, “Please know that we are a family-friendly restaurant that serves all ages from children to adults daily, and putting this dress code in place was necessary to ensure that all parties from our guests to our staff are dressed appropriately when in our establishment.”
“Unfortunately, due to the attire of some guests, we are forced to put this new policy in place as we remain committed to ensuring all guests are comfortable while visiting us. We are not a club, we are a family-friendly restaurant and will continue to maintain our standards as we welcome everyone to the Turkey Leg Hut! We appreciate your cooperation and look forward to having you visit us!”
Of course and without prompting, the post went viral prompting discussions on social media. While most of it was comedic, it still touched on the point of respectability and whether the dress code was about establishing boundaries, or attempting to appeal to a wider (ahem whiter) audience.
On Saturday Turkey Leg Hut owner Nakia Price doubled down on their position in a released statement obtained by KHOU 11.
“At the Turkey Leg Hut, we do our best to accommodate all of our guests. It’s unfortunate that we even have to address this or implement a dress code but we are a family-friendly restaurant that serves all ages from children to adults. Unfortunately, we have received complaints from our patrons regarding other guest’s wardrobe choices. In order to try and ensure all guests are comfortable while visiting us, we were forced to put a new dress code policy in place.
“Our dress code policy is not meant to target or offend anyone but rather provide our guests with an acceptable clothing guide, so that all guests and staff will feel comfortable in our establishment.
The Turkey Leg Hut has been, and always will be, a restaurant of inclusivity for all and we will continue to take into consideration the input of all patrons to provide a safe, comfortable and healthy environment for our community and guests.”
The situation is eerily reminiscent of the controversy surrounding True Kitchen + Kocktails in Atlanta where the owner lashed out at guests for twerking during the restaurant’s popular brunch late last year.