Dear owners and managers of Doc Ryan’s,
Suburban Unity Alliance recognizes that as a privately owned business, you have the right to choose how your establishment is run, from the drinks served, to music played, to how you want your patrons to dress. We appreciate small businesses and recognize the role a local bar plays economically and socially. We are not writing this letter to vilify or to force change. We write in the hope that it will create further dialogue and understanding.
Suburban Unity Alliance was created in an effort to raise equity awareness and to provide opportunities for local communities to gain better understandings of existing discriminatory issues. Two of our initiatives are equity advocacy and community engagement. SUA utilizes these programs to engage community stakeholders in an effort to increase self-awareness and empathy, leading us to opportunities for reassessment and growth.
These two initiatives are the reason you are being contacted. The first encounter between SUA and Doc Ryan’s resulted from a music request, to which your establishment’s response was perceived to be discriminatory. SUA was able to sit down and conduct a mediation session between Doc Ryan’s representatives and the concerned patrons. We thank you for engaging in mediation, and though all issues were not resolved, we believe all parties reached a better understanding about the incident.
We are presently writing you based on the report of a more recent incident regarding your bar’s dress code. An African American male patron reported to SUA that, while in your establishment, he was asked by a manager to pull up his pants because he was “sagging.” While no other member of SUA was present to witness this encounter, based upon this patron’s statement, we believe another mediation session would be beneficial. The patron felt singled out and embarrassed, that he was not “sagging,” and even had a button-up shirt and jacket covering his pants. Though he did explain to the manager that he felt wronged, he did not deem his words or actions to be hostile. Nonetheless, the Forest Park Police Department was contacted and the patron was escorted from the establishment.
Following this report, SUA’s director reached out to your establishment via phone and Facebook messaging directly to the owner in an effort to set up mediation, in hopes of resolving this issue. There has been no response from any representative of Doc Ryan’s regarding this incident. After the incident, which occurred on Friday, Sept. 1, from interactions this patron had with representatives of your establishment, he felt marginalized. Because SUA has not heard from anyone representing Doc’s, we felt compelled to write this letter in hopes of sparking conversation.
While SUA has no issues with dress codes, it is recognized that dress codes can be ambiguous and inconsistently applied. Biases, often implicit, come into play. A violation of a “sagging” policy may be in the eye of the beholder. This is where a community can come to perceive a dress code or other policy to be discriminatory, while others consider it warranted. Hence, the importance of creating dialogue to reach understanding and growth for both customer and establishment.
SUA believes this dialogue will be beneficial for our entire community, and we would love if your business and others would engage in an SUA-led forum with community members to discuss business practices and perceptions.
Please feel free to contact SUA’s director, Anthony@suburbanunity.org. We look forward to hearing from you.
Director of Suburban Unity Alliance