After years of persistent and ugly rumors, Uptown bar Kung Fu Saloon was publicly, and loudly, accused last year of racism at its door and in its dress code. The bar's owners didn't say much at the time, but now the bar has accepted a plea deal with the city over the dress code violations, resulting in a fine, probation and a written apology.
Last summer, Deandre Upshaw found himself turned away by Kung Fu after violating its vague and vaguely racist dress code. There were restrictions on "baggy," "loose-fitting" clothes and clothes that revealed any portion of underwear. In Upshaw's case, he was turned away for not wearing socks. None of this, however, was posted anywhere in the bar.
"When it first happened to me I didn't realize it was actually happening so frequently," Upshaw says now, reflecting on the events of last summer. "We had dozens, literally 30, 40 people, send me messages saying, 'Hey this happened to me at Kung Fu Saloon.' 'This happened to me at another place.'" There was even an ex-employee of Kung Fu who came forward with company emails that suggested racist policies.
Upshaw filed a complaint with the city, and the city attorney's office charged the bar with violating city code by "denying someone from entry based on noncompliance with a dress requirement that wasn't previously posted in writing in a visible place outside the entrance," says Assistant City Attorney Alejandro Martinez. Last week the bar, rather than dispute the accusations, copped to violating city code and agreed to pay a $400 fine, serve a 90-day probation and send Upshaw a written apology.
Kung Fu Saloon, who has remained mostly silent on the ongoing accusations since they first surfaced last June, did not return our request for comment.
The deal amounts to more of a technicality than it does an admittance of underlying racism, but Upshaw remains pleased with the outcome.
"From the start my whole thing was that they were in violation of the law by not posting their dress code and also in violation in terms of enforcing it selectively based on what the color of your skin is," Upshaw says. "So for me this is a win."
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Upshaw says he has also been contacted by the Department of Justice over a federal investigation into the bar's practices. If nothing more, he says, Kung Fu, and businesses across Dallas, have been put "on notice" that such policies won't be tolerated.
"For black people in Texas, you live every day as an activist just by existing," Upshaw says. "This, for me, has been a difficult road. It took a lot of time and effort that I know not a lot of people have. [But] we have a very vocal community of people -- black, white, hispanic -- who have seen this happen or had it happen to them. They all spoke up and said, 'We are tired of having this happen in our community.'"
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