Note: we are republishing this story amid an ongoing nationwide conversation about race and racial justice in America.
The owner of Nathan Bill's Bar & Restaurant, located in Springfield, Massachusetts, apologized and then removed a dress code policy after it was slammed by residents and local politicians, who called it racist.
The restaurant banned items such as baggy pants and durags in its previous policy.
The policy has been in place since the restaurant opened seven years ago, but it was recently brought to light after a Facebook post showing the policy was shared among community members.
Bishop Talbert Swan, president of the Springfield chapter of the NAACP, tweeted about it, writing: "It may as well say, 'WHITES ONLY,'" and accompanied it with a picture of the policy.
Swan also highlighted that the restaurant was also where four black men were assaulted by police officers in 2015. 12 Springfield officers, one retired officer, and one former officer were indicted in 2019 by a statewide grand jury in connection to the incident.
Following Swan's tweet, local officials and other community members gathered outside the restaurant on Saturday to protest discriminatory business practices, including Nathan Bill's dress code.
Tracye Whitfield, Springfield Councilor At Large who helped organize the protest, wrote on Facebook that they weren’t against dress code policies in general, just the racist ones.
She explained that the dress code specifically and clearly targeted ways Black people dress, listing low pants, baggy tees, and durags as examples.
"We felt that the sign was racist," she told CNN. "And we're not gonna tolerate any racism, any subliminal messages. We're not going to tolerate it anymore."
Owner Robert Gossman gave a short speech towards the end of the demonstration, stating that the dress code was taken down.
"I am currently ashamed of myself and offer my sincerest apologies for offending and not being more sensitive. I'm terribly upset with myself for not being more cognizant," he said.
He privately apologized to Whitfield and the group, and agreed to fully fund a “Black Lives Matter” mural.
"Systemic racism is rampant in our society and following the norm and the status quo, although not intentional, is very much a part of the problem," he added. "I pride myself on not being a sheep following the herd, and I failed myself."
Whitfield stated that it was "a great gesture, with meaningful conversations and dialogue," adding, "this is a message ... if organizations and businesses continue this, we're not going to take it. We're not going to be bartered."