Wearing the Jordan sneakers that allegedly violate Varsity Tavern's dress code, Sam Sayed, 32, filed the first formal discrimination complaint against the popular West 7th district bar on Monday.
Last month, Sayed hosted his friend Stephen, a black man from the Bronx, N.Y., over spring break from their master's program at Drexel University in Philadelphia. When Sayed took Stephen to Varsity Tavern, Stephen was turned away at the door by a bouncer because the Jordan sneakers he was wearing were supposedly against the dress code.
Later in the evening, Stephen switched shoes with a white friend, Sean Gallagher, who was admitted into Varsity wearing the Jordans with no questions asked. Although Stephen was allowed to enter the bar wearing Gallagher's Sperry boat shoes, he was asked to leave once a security guard noticed that he had switched back to his Jordans.
Sayed returned to town from Philadelphia and filed the complaint this week because he said he believed the bar should be held accountable for what he saw as a clear case of racial discrimination.
"It was very important to me because while I had experienced that on Seventh Street, particularly with Varsity before, for us Texans we just kind of accepted this open secret," Sayed said prior to filing the complaint. "For Stephen, who had never ever had that problem and never actually witnessed this stuff, for it to happen to him, it gave me a little bit of an idea of what it really does to someone."
The complaint — officially known as a public accommodation complaint of discrimination based on race — comes six days after Varsity Tavern released a statement which read in part: "We were saddened to learn there were people who felt they had been discriminated against when they were turned away based on our dress code."
Veronica Villegas, the coordinator for Fort Worth's Human Relations Unit, said that while Sayed is the first to file his complaint formally, eight others have started the inquiry process regarding complaints against Varsity Tavern. Another complaint was formally lodged shortly after Sayed completed his on Monday. It must be signed in person.
Bars, lounges and taverns are all classified as places of public accommodation, according to the City of Fort Worth Human Relations Ordinance.
Section 17-48 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation, transgender, gender identity or gender expression. The same section also states it is unlawful to refuse admission or expel an individual for alleged noncompliance with a dress code unless the dress code is posted in a visible location at all public entrances.