City News

At least five campus-area bars enforce dress codes

Banned attire includes do-rags, baggy pants, sideways hats

State Street Brats, one of five campus-area bars that posts a dress-code outside, bans customers from wearing plain white tees, baggy pants and do-rags.

A photo of State Street Brats’ dress code began circulating on social media last week, raising questions about clothing policies at bars. Brats and four other campus-area bars have dress codes posted outside their doors, The Daily Cardinal found.

Gina Heeb | The Daily Cardinal
Brats, Wando’s, Red Shed, Red Rock Saloon and Whiskey Jack’s all post signs banning certain articles of clothing, such as baggy pants, do-rags and sideways hats. When asked about the reasons for their dress codes, bar employees either declined to comment or later retracted their statements. Bar owners did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Seven bars—Plaza Tavern, Hawk’s, City Bar, Kollege Klub, Church Key, Vintage and the Nitty Gritty—confirmed to The Daily Cardinal that they do not have dress codes. Two bars, Chasers and The Double U, don’t currently post dress codes outside, but neither would say whether they have policies on what customers can wear. The bar Mondays could not be reached for comment.

Employees at three of the bars initially spoke to Cardinal reporters, but later said they would prefer not to be quoted, some at the request of bar owners. Two of the employees, both managers, said they have dress codes to keep members of gangs out of their establishments.

Although Brats' staff declined to comment for this article, the Cardinal reported in 2015 that the bar’s owner was considering implementing a dress code after a woman was injured in a shooting at the bar. 

City officials and Brats discussed creating a dress code in part as a way to deter gang members, according to the article. But the city government does not actively promote the use of dress codes in bars, according to Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4.

Noah Habenstreit | The Daily Cardinal
“[Madison] does allow for dress codes, but if and only if they are consistently applied or enforced no matter what they look like or how they might act,” Verveer said. “I assure you that they are not encouraged or condoned in any way by the Madison city government.” 

Local law enforcement said they are also not involved in the implementation of dress codes. Madison Police Department Public Information Officer Joel DeSpain said the department has “nothing to do with that” and “[doesn’t] care what people wear.”

Baggy pants, pants worn below the waist, do-rags and long shirts are banned at all five bars with dress codes. Plain white T-shirts are banned at four of the bars, sideways hats and sweatpants are banned at three and grills are banned at two. Only Red Shed bans neck tattoos and hoodies.

At some of the bars, the list doesn’t end there. Signs at Whiskey Jack’s and Wando’s both say their dress codes can change at any time, and at Brats, “Any item/Clothing That Is Deemed Dangerous, Obnoxious, Disturbing, OR Unsafe Will Be Denied!”

Employees at the seven bars without dress codes said they’ve never needed to implement them. Ben Roberts, a manager at Hawk’s Bar and Grill, said he “doesn’t care” what people wear to the bar.

“We’ve never really had any problems,” Roberts said. “We don’t think it has anything to do with the dress code. Usually more the control of the staff. We don’t have the ‘no white tees’ thing. We don’t care about that.”

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