Husband and wife Kaylan Colbert and William Johnson stated that they had arrived at Umi in Buckhead early for their 5:15 p.m. reservation when management informed them that Johnson’s white Nike Air Force 1 sneakers was in violation of the restaurant’s dress code. They were then denied service and asked to leave the premises. However, the incident escalated when Umi owner Farshid Arshid appeared at the scene.
Colbert told Fox 5 Atlanta that they were unaware sneakers were a violation of the dress code because her husband had previously worn the same sneakers to the restaurant without incident. She stated that they were willing to comply until Johnson noticed that a woman seated at the bar was wearing sneakers.
“If you’re going to have rules, they should apply to everyone, and not just some people,” Colbert, a personal injury attorney, told Fox 5.
While the restaurant claims that their policy is “strictly enforced,” the couple believes that it is actually arbitrarily enforced.
Colbert posted a video of the incident on her Instagram page, which showed a white woman seating at the bar in silver tennis shoes. Johnson asked why the woman was allowed in while wearing “Adidas sneakers” while he was not.
Speaking to Eater, Colbert said: “We were standing by her, but they are refusing to look down at her shoes to confirm that she has on sneakers. At one point, someone does look down and says, ‘They’re high-end sneakers.’ The lady actually kicks her foot out and she said, ‘Yeah, these are Adidas.’”
They asked the assistant general manager about the seemingly arbitrarily enforced dress code policy, and he replied that he was told the woman was wearing “dress sneakers.”
Arshid then happened to exit the restaurant as the incident was unfolding, and the couple asked him about the restaurant’s sneaker policy.
Arshid replied, “There’s no Adidas, there’s no Nikes, we just don’t have sneakers [worn inside.] There’s no Air Force 1s. It’s done.”
The conversation between Arshid and Johnson became heated, with the video showing Arshid threatening to call police, “He’s going to go to jail tonight,” he said, referring to Johnson. Colbert stated that her husband was being treated like the N-word, which Arshid misinterpreted, thinking he was being called the racial slur.
The confrontation got physical, but blows weren’t exchanged, and it ended after about 10 minutes.
“He was concerned for his life,” Colbert said about the threat of calling police. “I don’t know what an officer is going to show up feeling like, and they may feel automatically threatened because of his size. He was freaking out. We were in the car after we left and my chest was hurting. It just felt crazy. I’ve never felt like that before.”
Arshid told Eater via phone that he had apologized to the couple through text and phone, both for his behavior and for how the restaurant handled the situation.
“We should never have engaged with each other. I feel ashamed about that. We as the restaurant should have deescalated the situation,” he said. “I don’t know whether the woman [at the bar] had sneakers on or not, but this was 100 percent an operational failure by us and by me. When I got engaged, I should have investigated it. Maybe I should have gone inside and looked and come back out and said, ‘Sir, you’re right.’”
However, Colbert stated that they “have not accepted any apology from him. We don’t feel like he’s genuine.”
Arshid stated that he was planning to readdress banning sneakers at Umi, but that it was unlikely he was going to make any further policy changes.
“I’m also a sneakerhead. I come from music, fashion, and the arts,” he said. “So, we’re constantly changing the artwork, the chandeliers, design at Umi to elevate our atmosphere. Dinner is still theater, and I still believe that every occasion and every venue has a certain type of dress code.”
He stated that he was willing to make it right with Colbert and Johnson, stating: “Of course owners can make their own rules and decide how they want their restaurants to be run. But if you’re not going to enforce those rules on everybody, then yes, it does become a discriminatory practice at that point.”
Sources: America Now