The Dress Code Debacle – Is it discrimination?

Last Sunday night, May 24th, two of my friends and myself decided we would check out Humber for dinner. There has been a lot of hype around the new café and rooftop bar, which is located in the renovated Hillman Humber building, on the corner of Crown Street and Crown Lane.

We weren’t really sure about what exactly they had to offer, but we thought we would try our luck and see if they had a dinner menu. We approached the entrance which was empty aside from the security guard on the door. I asked if they were serving dinner and was rudely told to “just wait”, while he checked the ID of two men who had just arrived.

After checking their ID’s and letting them in, without a second glance, he turned to us and rather than answering my question, simply said “you’re underdressed.”  I have to say I was a little taken aback. I’ve never been refused entry to a venue before and so I wasn’t sure how to respond. I became confused and then frustrated as the guard refused to explain what he meant.

I guess we will never know how exactly we were underdressed. I can’t recall how many times exactly the term ‘underdressed’ was thrown around by that security guard, but it was at least three times, with a specific gesture, he pointed directly at one of my friends in particular.

We were dressed appropriately to sit down and eat a meal. I know this because after being turned away, we went to a different restaurant and were welcomed in and seated with a smile – and not so much as a second glance about our dress.

We were all wearing jeans, or what some would describe as chinos, and a nice top. I don’t even know how to describe a nice top now, because obviously what I’ve always thought of as a nice top isn’t in the eyes of Humber’s security guards.

The real issue here is that, we suspect, we were turned away because we were a group of three girls, with one girl dressed in male clothing. With no dress code at entrance and the security guard refusing to tell us the dress code, I feel that this is a case of discrimination, based on someone’s personal preference for androgynous clothing.

Further evidence of this is that the two men who were granted entry while we were waiting were dressed in shorts and hoodies – arguably more “under-dressed” than my friend.

I posted on Humbers Facebook page requesting an explanation of the dress code. While waiting for their response, which didn’t come until nearly 24 hours later, a few other patrons commented on the post with their own bad experiences of being turned away due to hidden dress codes. Surprisingly, many other people commented saying they had been let in in very casual wear, including sweaty gym clothes!

The comments on my post directed me to Humber’s TripAdvisor page where only one of the reviews I read was positive. Most others were negative, again showing clear cases of discrimination; one that caught my attention in particular, was a mother with a newborn who was told to “dump the pram somewhere”.

When Humber responded it was a very dry and very insincere apology, essentially blaming the new security staff, and the fact that they may not have been briefed on policy properly (even though admitting that makes Humber appear unorganised and unsure of their own policies and procedures).

The post was hidden from their timeline, although people could still access it via my own Facebook page, as well those of my friends. The post had almost eighty likes before it was deleted permanently. This occurred after my friend’s mother asked for a formal review of the incident.

I’m deeply saddened that in 2015, when other countries are legalising gay marriage, Australian venues are discriminating against females who prefer to wear male clothing. It’s queerphobic, unfair, and just not good enough. Humber is still yet to release a dress code, leaving the majority of their potential patrons confused and anxious about attending the bar. In the end, I guess it really is just sad that a brand new venue with so much potential has ended up disappointing.


Written by: Natalie McLaren

One comment

  1. I’m surprised to hear allegations of anti gay attitudes considering one of the owners is openly gay

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