What's surprising is not that patrons say a West 7th-area bar enforced its dress code unfairly based on race.
What's surprising is that nobody has ever filed an official complaint about it.
We have a law against discrimination, and a city office that enforces it.
For years, patrons of downtown and West Seventh Street bars have complained on social media about unequal dress code enforcement.
But nobody ever told the Human Relations Commission.
I guess I thought all this was settled 54 years ago.
After the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Fort Worth passed its own specific ordinance in 1968 banning racial discrimination in restaurants, nightclubs and public places.
Way back in 1979, City Hall put teeth in the law.
The Human Relations Commission was about to investigate four of the busiest nightclubs of that freewheeling happy-hour era: the Daily Double, Spencer's Corner, Spencer's Palace and Triple Crown.
Maryellen Hicks, then a municipal judge and later a district court judge making a comeback as a candidate this fall, transferred cases involving owner Spencer Taylor's clubs out of her court, saying, “I'm concerned that blacks and browns have been arrested, it appears, for nothing.”
Hicks said African-Americans were required to show two forms of ID at the club, and that two white women attorneys who tried to go with an African-American man were turned away and told they didn't have reservations.
She also said Fort Worth police officers should not be allowed to work off-duty at the clubs.
Owner Spencer Taylor went on to become a Texas nightclub legend as the co-founder of Billy Bob's Texas.
He denied the accusations but staved off an investigation by agreeing to set a formal dress code and admission policy and post it, along with a statement that the clubs would not discriminate based on race.
Taylor told the Star-Telegram his clubs didn't allow “scuzzies.”
“Anybody who doesn't look good can't get in,” he said: “If they look like Jacksboro Highway,” then a notorious honky-tonk strip, “we send them to Jacksboro Highway.”
Then-Police Chief H.F. Hopkins said his officers were not practicing discrimination, but said they turned away “certain types” and “undesirable types.”
“That's not racial discrimination,” he was quoted: “It's saying that they don't want undesirable types.”
After City Council member Jim Bagsby complained and state Rep. Bobby Webber demanded the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission investigate “community safety” at the clubs, Taylor announced the new rules and that all clubs would offer complaint forms.
He said patrons had been turned away due to “misunderstandings” and that anyone “neat and clean” could come in.
Varsity Tavern, one of the West 7th-area bars described in complaints, has issued its own statement.
The unsigned statement says patrons were turned away based on the dress code and “we realize that also means there can appear to be inconsistencies.”
The statement also said Varsity does not tolerate or condone discrimination, calling it “something we ... take very seriously.”
So should City Hall.