A Louisiana woman who was kicked out of a Houma seafood shop for wearing a tank top says she had considered filing a complaint with authorities but the backlash the owners are receiving on social media and in the local news might be enough to get them to change their policy.
Cookie Pierre told the Houma Courier that she stopped by Sea-Go Seafood, owned by Arthur and Linda Eschete, on Sunday afternoon to grab some crawfish for her family. The woman behind the counter, however, told her to get out of the store, according to Pierre.
“I thought she was talking to the other customer, and she said, ‘No, I mean you,’” Pierre told the Houma Courier. “When I looked up she was pointing at me. She said ‘You're not coming in here dressed like that.’”
Pierre, who was wearing a black tank top with thin shoulder straps at the time, said she couldn’t believe it.
“I said ‘Take my picture. This man's putting me out for what I'm wearing,’” she said. “He said, ‘You want a picture? Here's your picture.’ And he stuck his finger up, and that's the shot we got.”
Since the incident, pictures of Pierre in her black shirt, standing outside the store, have circulated on social media.
And the store’s Yelp page currently carries numerous copies of the photo of Arthur Eschete standing by the store’s front door with his finger in the air.
Sea-Go Seafood has a sign of posted rules. The first rule reads: “Ladies must have A WHOLE SHIRT on.”
Other rules indicate that patrons must refrain from drinking or smoking and using profanity.
Arthur Eschete Jr., the store’s assistant manager, told the Courier he wasn’t at the store Sunday but said most customers appreciate the rules.
“Gauging from response we get from customers, we as a company have gotten more compliments about the sign than complaints,” he said.
“We're trying to minimize the vulgar exposure to our clientele because a lot of times there's a line out the door here and some people have verbally expressed to us that it's a shame that they're in line with these people because of the way they're dressed,” the younger Eschete said, adding that the offensive hand gesture was out of character for his father and shouldn’t have happened.
“We definitely would like to extend our apologies to the people for that,” he said.
But this isn’t the first time the Eschetes have faced backlash for their rules, which some people say is sexist because it only mentions dress for women.
The Courier ran a story about the store’s posted rules back in 2011.
Christa Falgout, who was 31 at the time, told the Courier she had recently been kicked out for the same type of offense.
“I was mortified,” Falgout said. “I had my two children with me and I was wearing a halter top. Maybe some Capri pants. I got out of my car and went in there and they started yelling at me, they accused me of looking like a ‘whore.’”
Arthur Eschete said at the time that he wasn’t attempting to discriminate against women, just trying avoid repeats of bad situations.
He said he first started enforcing a dress code when a group of inebriated teenagers — boys and girls — came into the store wearing swimsuits and verbally assaulted the couple.
Not long after that, he told the Courier, an employee was accused of staring at a scantily-dressed woman.
“I got tired of dealing with it and said I am going to put a dress code, that women must have a whole shirt,” he said, adding that he would also refuse to serve men “with pants to their knees.”
“The majority of my customers love it,” Eschete said in 2011. “Many say ‘Why should I come in here and see a woman or some guy who barely has any clothes on and make me uncomfortable and my wife uncomfortable?’”
It remains to be seen if the Eschetes will change their policy amid the recent backlash.
Pierre said the news about her incident might be enough.
“I thought about filing a complaint. I thought about calling better business bureau,” she said. “But really, by now, the way it already blew up — I never expected it to get this far. I wasn't wanting trouble, I was just wanting a family outing.”