Jaberwoke undresses

A week after Corner-area eatery Jaberwoke was accused of racism for its new dress code, its customers are free once more to dress as they please.

"The dress code is gone," Jaberwoke restaurant co-owner Anderson McClure declared yesterday afternoon during an at times contentious public meeting on the issue at the restaurant.

This follows a controversy that exploded in the pages of the student run Cavalier Daily and the creation of a Facebook group titled "Hoos Against Jaberwoke" that claimed the dress code targeted African Americans, and McClure (who operates that restaurant in addition to The Virginian and West Main with his brother Pat McClure) says he's rethought the regulation.

"The dress code apparently alienated some of my customers, and for that I'm truly sorry," he says today in an interview with the Hook. "I wasn't trying to offend anybody, I was trying to solve a problem.

That problem, McClure says, is rude and sometimes violent customers. In his experience, he says, the offenders often wear the same outfit: large white t-shirt, baggy jeans, and hats without brims. Other verboten garments: sleeveless shirts for men, camouflage on non-armed forces members, hoods worn up, and sweatpants. McClure says he's had problems with various ethnicities wearing such garb, but declines to estimate what percentage have been black.

On Tuesday, March 19, McClure attended a student council meeting at which his dress code was discussed and a resolution issued. On Wednesday afternoon, McClure closed Jaberwoke from 3-5pm to host a public forum on the matter. Approximately 50 students– many members of the school's NAACP chapter– attended that forum and insisted that the dress code was actually thinly disguised way to keep blacks out.

"The policies you've implemented are flawed," said one female student, an African American.

"Making assumptions about these clothes is wrong," said another.

McClure came under particular fire during the meeting from former UVA Dean of African American Affairs and current local NAACP president Rick Turner. "You're really not being honest with yourself," Turner said to McClure. "You don't want black people in your bar."

McClure denied Turner's accusation, citing a diverse staff and multi-colored clientele. "If you knew me," he says today, "you'd know there's not a racist bone in my body."

A young African American man who bartends at a different corner establishment was the only one who spoke in support of the code.

"There is a trend, and you really can't ignore that," he said of his own observations working late at night. White t-shirts, baggy jeans, and hats without brims are the outfit of choice for many trouble makers, he agreed. The real problem, he said, is unfair application of the dress code by bouncers at the door. He cited an Asian man who had been permitted into Jaberwoke in prohibited clothing items.

The confrontational tone of the meeting "made me sad," says McClure. "It wasn't productive at all." He wishes the group had focused more on a mutually agreeable solution than on accusing him and his establishment of discrimination.

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

UVA spokesperson Carol Wood declines to weigh in on the controversy. "The students are doing a good job of stating their opinions on it," she says.

Students have planned another meeting on the dress code for Wednesday, March 28 in Clark Hall, Room 107, at 7pm.

9 comments

Andy and Patrick-- I'm glad you got this cleared up. I expect a little more out of you. You and I know that you know better.

Not anymore. The concepts of privately owned business and privately owned property are fleeting. We have the best idea and we're going to abandon it because we're not doing what everybody else is doing. The democratic party has been taken over by socialists and outright communists, and they seem to be taking over the country. We need to get to the polls and stop them before it's too late.

McClure is sad that the students didn't focus on a "mutually agreeable solution," but did he contribute to the intransigence at all in his appearance at the Student Council meeting a couple days ago? Did he insist at that time that there was nothing wrong with his policy? At any point has he publicly said "I can see why you might think this policy targets black people"--in other words, has he acknowledged in any way the feelings of the upset students? I'm not saying his policy WAS discriminatory--I disagree with Turner that McClure secretly wants to keep black people out of his restaurant. But if he can't see things from the perspective of a black student, then I don't think he's got any room to be poor-me'ing about the confrontational tone of the meeting.

And I'm sorry, but "it seems like no matter what I do, I'm going to be attacked"???? Well, if you back off the policy and replace it with something far less subjective and vague (what exactly is a brimless hat? how baggy is too baggy?) and apply the policy consistently across the board instead of letting it mostly impact black students, then I don't think you'll get attacked for that. Stop poor-me'ing--you threw up a poorly-thought-through, vague policy and allowed it to be inconsistently applied: there are consequences for such poor public relations, and you're paying them.

Oh, and Rick Turner is a detriment to the whole community. He's not doing valuable necessary work.

this is bullshit. a man can run his PRIVATELY OWNED business any way he pleases. This town is full of a bunch of liberal cheesedicks who just want to bitch about everything

Sure a man can run his privately owned business any way he pleases. and customers can decide that someone's business isn't worth their business, as well. if you want to make a profit from serving the public--you want their money in your pocket--well, then you have to be smart about public relations. think about those words--"serving the public." businesses serve the public, not the other way around. you DO have to worry about offending your client base--your competitors are right next door, up and down the street. nothing is guaranteed in life, and just because you open a restaurant and serve food and beer doesn't mean people HAVE to come.

if you don't like the idea of conforming your business practices to meet the wishes of your preferred client base, then GET OUT OF THE BUSINESS. "come on, people, you HAVE to keep giving me your money! I want your money! the world is coming to an end because my bad business practices are not being rewarded!" and yes, the Democrats are behind ALL OF IT. (signed, I am an idiot)

I don't blame him for banning certain attire in his restaurant. If a person chooses to wear the costume of a thug, then they can and will be treated as one. A respectable and responsible person will separate themselves from the image of a troublemaker. I would never frequent a restaraunt that allowed patrons that were so blatently dressed up like drug dealers. This man has every right to enforce a dress code, as long as it applies to everyone, regardless of race.

And apparently consistency--that is, applying it to everyone across the board--was an issue. Not everyone who wore "the costume of a thug" was asked to leave. You can read the news stories from the Cav Daily to see the examples I'm talking about.

I do have to ask how, if I come in wearing sweatpants (one of the prohibited items), I'm wearing the costume of a thug. Or if I wear a "brimless hat" (read: a skully or do-rag). Or if I wear a white t-shirt. Or baggy clothes. The prohibitions singled out what seem to me to be random and not necessarily connected items, some of which don't seem to have any connection to "bad behavior" (sweatpants? really?). Moreover, as many critics have pointed out, while the McClures said they were trying to make the restaurant more upscale, they didn't seem to have a problem with the typical white frat-guy attire: totally grungy/trashed jeans, ratty/faded ball caps, etc. Just the kinds of things urban/black kids wear....

I have UVa students who wear do-rags; they don't do it because they want to adopt the image of a "troublemaker," but because do-rags keep black hairstyles (cornrows, etc.) in place, or because they are currently between hairstyles (their hair is currently unbraided or they're growing it out) and they want to keep it from sticking out every which way. It's more about hair care (and if you're white you may not know much about black hair care) than about affecting an image.

Honestly, the perspective that sees a do-rag as the costume of a thug or the image of a troublemaker (that any respectable person would want to distance himself from) is a really clueless perspective.

Watch the news. Read the newspapers. All these thugs that are being arrested everyday for drug dealing, assaults, etc.,....what are they wearing? How do they appear? It is a costume...a uniform. T-shirts down to their knees, extremely baggy pants that are falling off their ass, shoes untied, head wrapped up in some kind of rag, hat on sideways, etc. This is the image of a thug. People can choose not to associate themselves with this image. This man has every right to enforce a dress code in his restaurant. This would not even be an issue at Keswick or any other high end establishment. Rapture on the downtown mall has a very similar dress code that has worked well to discourage problems that were occuring frequently when they allowed people dressed in a manner that projected an inappropriate image. The reason for this is that this image very often resulted in problems. I agree that it must be enforced across the board without any exceptions. Sweatpants may not project the image of a thug, but perhaps the owner feels they are not appropriate for his restaraunt. This is his right. If somebody doesn't like it, they are free to move on.

Right on brother. It's comin to us if we don't get it stomped out in a hurry. And I don't care a rats ass about what it takes to take care of a fro.