A New Jersey man is considering legal action after what he said was a "blatant" instance of a racist double standard involving the dress code of a Jersey City bar that has been under fire in the past for its dress code.
Charles "CJ" Pace, 26, said he was at The Ashford for lunch with friends Keziah Jones and Andrece Brady around 4 p.m. on April 10 when they were told they could not come inside because he was wearing "joggers" sweatpants, so they had to dine at a table outside.
Pace had no issues with it until he saw a group of white men in sweatpants and backwards hats walk right into the restaurant without being stopped at all, which he filmed on his phone.
"At first I saw other people dining outside, so I said, 'OK cool, if this is the dress code, I totally understand,''' Pace told TODAY Food. "Then we sit outside and I'm facing the door, and we see these guys walk right in. It felt so blatant, so disrespectful."
"Being black in america is being told you can’t come inside an establishment because you have on sweatpants, but you can sit outside.. and as you sit outside, you watch white people walk in smoothly with sweatpants on," Pace wrote.
"How would you feel? and then to make it worse, we ask for the manager and he tells us he wouldn’t really make it a big deal & can he offer us a round of shots to make it better.. wtf? he also chuckled when i brought up my social media platform, i wonder if it’s still funny now? .. what a shame! @theashfordjc to think i was gonna have my birthday dinner here! TUH , not when the dress code only applies to my people."
Pace said he mentioned the situation to a security guard outside thinking he would rectify it.
"He started walking toward the door, and I thought he was about to tell them they couldn't come in, but instead he's like, 'I hope you guys don't think pointing this out to me is gonna change anything," Pace said. "For you to even say that, you just wanted to say something snarky to us.
"That's when I knew for a fact that they were about to let (the white men) in, so that's when I started recording."
The owners of The Ashford, Kenneth Caulfield and Jeff Lam, did not respond to a request for comment from TODAY but issued a statement on Instagram three days after Pace posted his video.
The statement did not specifically mention the incident, and the restaurant has appeared to have turned off the comments on its Instagram account.
"The Ashford and Six26 has a multi-racial ownership group, employs a multi-racial team, and serves a multi-racial community," the statement said. "We are ANTI-RACIST. We will take action internally to ensure every team member meets this standard everyday."
Pace said the restaurant has not reached out to him, but he has received an outpouring of support on social media and others sharing their own stories of racial discrimination at The Ashford.
"Especially the climate that we're in as far as race, people are very sensitive to this," Pace said. "People I didn't even know were taking this personal for me."
He also noted that the restaurant's statement made no apology or acknowledgement of what happened.
"It was baseless," Pace said. "There was no sympathy or anything."
This also isn't the first time The Ashford has received backlash for what was viewed as a racist dress code policy.
In 2019, the bar put up a sign with a dress code that banned oversized jeans and shirts, head gear, ball caps, work boots, gym sneakers, shorts or athletic apparel, sweatpants or joggers, cargo pants, oversized jewelry and chains, sunglasses, camouflage, low or baggy pants and headphones, according to NJ.com.
After drawing criticism that the dress code appeared to be attempting to keep people of color away from the bar, the owners took down the sign and said it was "an oversight." They changed the dress code to "casual neat."
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Last year, a bar in Alabama and another one in Jersey City removed their dress code policies after they were labeled racist and offensive. Also, a restaurant group in Baltimore apologized after video showed a Black woman and her 9-year-old son being denied service because of the way he was dressed, while a white boy dressed similarly was apparently served.
Following last week's incident, Pace said he is now going to be "moving forward taking legal action" regarding discrimination claims after being contacted by some local law firms.
"Most importantly, I just wanted to spread awareness of all this," he said.
He and his friends had never been to The Ashford before the incident.
"That was the first time," he said. "And the last time."