As Americans continue to have a nationwide conversation about race and racial justice in our country, a video has emerged on social media, showing a black woman being thrown out of a family-friendly restaurant over her “inappropriate” outfit. According to the woman in question, her race was a large part of the problem.
Aireal Bonner was at Southern Kitchen & Bar in Birmingham, Alabama on a Friday when her outfit drew unwanted attention. According to Bonner, she was “rudely mistreated” by the restaurant staff, who kicked her out of the establishment over her attire, but Bonner said she had doubts that her clothing was the issue. Instead, she took to Facebook with a video of the incident, calling the establishment “racist.”
The footage captured by Bonner and posted to social media starts with Bonner and an employee of the establishment having a conversation over the customer’s attire. During the exchange, Bonner is offered a shirt at no cost to her and asked to put it on over her crocheted top, which the restaurant claimed was a “bikini top” and not appropriate for the restaurant’s family-friendly atmosphere.
After refusing to cover up, Bonner was asked to leave as the restaurant maintained that her top violated the establishment’s dress code. Undeterred, Bonner is seen in the video footage, asking where the dress code was posted. In response, the employee claimed the dress code did not need to be posted because the restaurant is a privately owned business.
At that point, Bonner instructed the employee to tell the owner to come and tell her himself that she needed to cover up with a t-shirt. Instead, she says she was threatened with police involvement. The manager allegedly threatened to call the cops if she didn’t exit the premises, according to Opposing Views.
“I was threatened with police action simply because I wanted to sit and eat in an outfit that I felt comfortable and happy in,” Bonner alleged in a post on Facebook. “There was no customer complaint that prompted the situation. This was purely the way that the ‘owner’ chose to run his business,” she added, but in her video clip, she made even stronger accusations against the restaurant, calling it racist.
After saying “F*ck” the restaurant, Bonner instructed viewers not to eat there, adding that the staff is “racist” and “slut-shame,” as she called the establishment “disgusting.” When speaking with CBS 42 after the incident, Bonner doubled down on her doubt that her clothing was the reason she was kicked out, further claiming race played a part.
“My clothing was an excuse to not have me dine there,” Bonner alleged. “I think the biggest issue with my appearance is that I look very Afro-centric. My hair is an Afro texture. The way that I dress is Afro-centric. So I believe that because they can’t directly say things like ‘We don’t like the color of your skin, we don’t like the way that your hair looks,’ my clothing was just used as an excuse.”
While Aireal Bonner’s accusations are alarming, if true, we feel obligated to point out that it does not appear that Bonner was the only black woman at the establishment during the ordeal. As her video pans the place, others at the bar appear to also have dark skin, and Bonner is the only person being asked to leave.
Of course, Southern Kitchen & Bar has told a much different story regarding the encounter, reiterating that Bonner’s top was “not consistent with our appropriate attire policy” in a statement posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page. The restaurant did offer an apology, however, saying the “attempt to follow company policy was ill-timed” since staff waited to confront Bonner until after she had sat down, rather than when she first entered the establishment.
“We regret interrupting Ms. Bonner’s dinner and understand that would make anyone feel uncomfortable,” the statement said, adding that it was “establishing more rigid protocols” in the implementation of its policy, including addressing any issues at the door. “We have done and will continue to do the work to ensure our restaurant is a place where all feel welcome,” the restaurant said.
Bonner, however, wasn’t impressed and refused to accept the apology. “The apparent ‘apology’ statement for the TIMING on when I was confronted about a nonexistent dress code is as I said before…LAUGHABLE,” Bonner wrote in response to the restaurant’s statement. Instead of offering forgiveness, she asked people to bombard the business with negative reviews. It was apparently effective too, as the establishment’s Yelp page was taken down.
In response to Bonner’s complaint, Alabama Rally Against Injustice scheduled a sit-in protest at the restaurant, claiming that there were pictures of other women wearing similar clothing on the restaurant’s social media page. While we could not find the photos the group is referencing, we did find plenty of photos of black patrons enjoying the restaurant, but I digress.
“Private businesses have the right to run their establishment how they see fit,” the group Alabama Rally Against Injustice admitted, but added, “discrimination will not be tolerated.” So, the question becomes, was this discrimination? Was it the woman’s skin color or her attire that was a problem? That’s for you to decide.