Note: we are republishing this story amid a nationwide conversation about race and racial justice in America.
Aireal Bonner stated that she was “rudely mistreated” by a Birmingham restaurant, and that she was kicked her out of the establishment over her attire. She stated that she doubted that her clothing was the real reason she was kicked out.
She was told to leave Southern Kitchen & Bar in Uptown after she refused to cover her crocheted top – which the restaurant maintained was a “bikini top” that violates its dress code – with a shirt.
In a video Bonner posted on Facebook, when she asked where the dress code notice was, the manager told her that the restaurant’s dress code doesn’t have to be posted because the restaurant is a private business.
She was offered a t-shirt by another manager, but she refused to put it on. She was then asked to leave, with the manager threatening to call police if she did not exit the premises.
Bonner said in her Facebook post: “I was threatened with police action simply because I wanted to sit and eat in an outfit that I felt comfortable and happy in. There was no customer complaint that prompted the situation. This was purely the way that the ‘owner’ chose to run his business.”
Bonner later claimed that she doubted her clothing was the reason she was kicked out.
She told CBS 42: “My clothing was an excuse to not have me dine there. I think the biggest issue with my appearance is that I look very Afro-centric. My hair is an Afro texture. The way that I dress is Afro-centric. So I believe that because they can’t directly say things like ‘We don’t like the color of your skin, we don’t like the way that your hair looks,’ my clothing was just used as an excuse.”
Southern Kitchen and Bar posted a statement on its Facebook page stating that Bonner’s top was “not consistent with our appropriate attire policy.”
However, the restaurant apologized because the “attempt to follow company policy was ill-timed” since staff waited until she sat down before confronting her instead of when she first entered the establishment.
“We regret interrupting Ms. Bonner’s dinner and understand that would make anyone feel uncomfortable,” the statement said, adding that it was “establishing more rigid protocols” in the implementation of its policy, including addressing any issues at the door.
“We have done and will continue to do the work to ensure our restaurant is a place where all feel welcome,” the restaurant said.
Bonner refused to accept the apology, and asked people to bombard the business with negative reviews, leading to the establishment’s Yelp page being taken down.
“The apparent ‘apology’ statement for the TIMING on when I was confronted about a nonexistent dress code is as I said before…LAUGHABLE,” Bonner wrote.
The group Alabama Rally Against Injustice has scheduled a sit-in protest at the restaurant on Saturday, claiming that there were pictures of other women wearing similar clothing on the restaurant’s social media page.
“Private businesses have the right to run their establishment how they see fit, but their discrimination will not be tolerated,” the group wrote.