Bottled Blonde, Opening in Deep Ellum, Accused of Racism and Liquor License Violations in Chicago

A rendering shows the forthcoming Deep Ellum location of Bottled Blonde, a chain bar and restaurant (listed on Facebook as a bar and dance club) that's come under fire for its business practices in other cities.EXPAND
A rendering shows the forthcoming Deep Ellum location of Bottled Blonde, a chain bar and restaurant (listed on Facebook as a bar and dance club) that's come under fire for its business practices in other cities.
Courtesy of Bottled Blonde

Bottled Blonde, a new pizzeria/beer garden/nightclub that’s slated to open in Deep Ellum this summer, is already facing local backlash because of the chain restaurant's troubles in Chicago.

The bar/restaurant is at risk of losing its liquor license after it ignored reprimands from Chicago city officials for operating primarily as a bar instead of a restaurant, violating the terms of its liquor license, according to the Chicago Sun-Times .

"With a flood of complaints for noise, litter and drunken patrons since Bottled Blonde opened in 2015, city investigators reprimanded the pizzeria for operating primarily as a bar instead of a restaurant, against the terms of their liquor license, according to records from the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection," the Sun-Times reported.

Deep Ellum has already seen issues with bars and restaurants operating primarily as dance clubs. Bottled Blonde's issues in Chicago are stoking fears that it could happen again.

These issues have community leaders in Deep Ellum concerned about Bottled Blonde's Dallas location, slated to open at 501 N. Good Latimer Expressway this summer. “Based upon the concerns from the neighbors at the Chicago location in which [Bottled Blonde] went in as a ‘restaurant’ but quickly evolved into a ‘dance club,’ which has apparently caused serious issues with the surrounding area, we should all work together to ensure that BBD comes into the Deep Ellum community and strives to work harmoniously WITH our neighborhood,” Raine Devries, president of a Deep Ellum neighbors association, wrote on her Facebook page.

Neighborhood concerns about incoming Deep Ellum businesses aren't unwarranted; the sheer size of crowds in recent months has made it challenging for both the Dallas Police Department and hired security to keep the area safe. In the last few weeks, there have been enough added reports of muggings and violence in the area that bars and restaurants have banded together to hire more off-duty police to work as security.

It hasn’t only been disgruntled neighbors and city officials in Chicago throwing flak at the bar. The establishment’s lengthy list of prohibited apparel has drawn national scrutiny as being racist and classist. Its policies have earned the business a rash of negative reviews from Chicago patrons on Yelp, where it clocks in at 2.5 out of 5 stars.

An excerpt from the prohibited list of “shirts/jackets” on a sign at the company’s Chicago location reads: “No plain white tees, long tees, denim, flannel ... deep V-necks … No shearling/fur, leather, jean jackets.”

That section alone lists nearly 25 prohibited items. Combined with the “Pants,” “Shoes,” “No bad attitudes and behavior” and “Misc” sections, including directives like “no visible tattoos on the neck, face or hands,” there are nearly 100 things that aren’t allowed in the venue. Regulation is left to the discretion of the front door security staff.

“Some people left comments [on Facebook] letting Bottled Blonde know that their dress code in Chicago wouldn’t work in Dallas and certainly not in Deep Ellum [with items like] ‘no tattoos,’” says Devries, who adds that she’d like to have a discussion with Bottled Blonde to see how they might better integrate into the neighborhood. She says she hasn’t been able to make contact.

Neither the general manager for Bottled Blonde nor the owners of the company, Scottsdale-based Evening Entertainment Group (where the other Bottled Blonde is located), responded to repeated requests for comment.

A host of Dallasites took to Bottled Blonde’s Facebook page to air their displeasure. Bottled Blonde disabled the reviews section after the onslaught of negative attention about the dress code and after people protested the validity of the business’ five-star reviews for its Dallas location before opening. People who have posted concerns on the business' Facebook page have seen their comments quickly deleted by page administrators.

“From what I saw, Bottled Blonde had recruited employees from their other locations to leave five-star reviews on the Dallas venue back in January 2017. Problem was, the venue still isn’t open yet, so it was misleading and disingenuous,” says Devries, who says she determined Bottled Blonde employees were writing the reviews after checking their Facebook profiles and seeing the club listed under workplaces.

Bottled Blonde's issues in other cities have Deep Ellum concerned about what's coming to the neighborhood this summer.

“When it opened, the Bottled Blonde promised neighbors it would operate like a family restaurant, but photos and videos taken in the business show decidedly un-family friendly scenes, including servers in lingerie and drunken patrons dancing on bars," reported DNA Info, a Chicago-based publication. "A resident DJ at the business, DJ Strategy, also appalls neighbors. The DJ's Instagram account, Snapchat and Facebook page show him slapping stickers that say 'Send Nudes onto semi-clothed or nude women, and taunting other women who show up at the Bottled Blonde by labeling them 'designated ugly fat friends.’”

Bottled Blonde's first hearing related to its potential liquor license violations was yesterday in Chicago, the Tribune reports. People who live near the bar in Chicago told the newspaper that the bar and restaurant has been an ongoing problem in the neighborhood and that management has refused to work with residents.

"They have done everything to violate their operating agreement," Miriam Waltz told the Tribune. "The neighborhood's been dangerous. Drunken patrons leave; there's been fighting in the streets; there's been vomiting, urination in our alley."


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