Photo via Wate.com
On more than one occasion, my tattoos have gotten in the way of getting food and drink. A seaside restaurant in Greece made it clear they didn't like my tattooed kind and ignored me until I left. A bouncer at an upscale rooftop bar in Manhattan informed me that "this wouldn't be my type of place." In the end, I was happy not to give my money to such places, but it did put a damper on my good time. I don't do well with people getting in between me and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
That said, private establishments do have a general right to have dress codes and to deny those that don't fit their "type of place" as long as the discrimination is not based on a protected class, like religion, race, and sex, among others.
Last week, Bubba Brews, a restaurant on Norris Lake in Maynardville, Tennessee, told a tattooed patron, Mike, to cover up his tattoos, and so he did what many people do today ... he called the media claiming tattoo discrimination. Check the video below.
But something about this incident didn't have me waving the tattooed freak flag and instantly supporting claims of injustice. The owner of the restaurant was tattooed, and the news cameras showed that there were plenty of tattooed patrons. It was the content of the tattoos that were the problem. Aside from his classy, "I <3 Strippers" throat tattoo, he also had work that said, "Don't be a dick," and a rib piece that was blurred out, which was a youthful mistake. Considering there were kids at the restaurant who were trying to read his tattoos, they asked him to keep his shirt on. He didn't like that.
I don't think it's unreasonable for a restaurant owner to worry about losing family clientele, and as such, ask a patron to cover up that youthful mistake, but still offer service. If I was the restaurant owner, I would have offered Mike a free drink in exchange for him putting on a shirt and being cool.
It's a slippery slope argument, though. What really is an offensive tattoo? Is it one of those "I know it when I see it" standards? How does one balance the rights of a private business owner to keep a certain reputation with the rights of tattooed people not to be denied the right to be served?
I don't think these are easy questions. But in this particular instance, I think someone who has tattoos that have to be blurred out on TV should take some responsibility, put on a shirt, and follow his tattooed mantra, "Don't be a dick."
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