Derek Montgomery

A group of University of Wisconsin students gathered to protest allegedly racist dress codes at two Madison bars — Johnny O’s and Brothers — Friday night.

About 60 to 70 students from several university groups and organizations were involved in the protest. The demonstrators view the dress codes at Madison bars as “anti hip-hop” and as specifically racist against African Americans.

The dress codes ban clothing items such as sports jerseys, active wear, bandannas, wave caps and hats not facing forward or backward.

UW junior Kate Losey, who attended the protest, said she was pleased with the turnout and the protest’s effectiveness. She said a lot of the protesters attended an initial organizational meeting Wednesday night to discuss the issue and many more showed up for the protest Friday.

“We had a lot of good conversations with people,” Losey said.

According to Losey, the main focus of the protest was to keep people from patronizing the bars Friday night and to inform them of their position against dress codes.

“We asked people not to go into the bar, but at the same time we tried to get fliers out to people to tell them what this was about,” Losey said.

Losey thinks their protest was effective in keeping patrons out of the bars. She said she noticed there were fewer-than-average people in the bars.

“One woman did come out and say that the bar was quite dead as compared to how it was on a regular Friday night,” Losey said.

Brothers management declined to comment. A representative at Johnny O’s could not be reached for comment.

Lee Pier, general manager of Madison’s Nitty Gritty Restaurant and Bar, said he understands the decision of the business owners of Brothers and Johnny O’s to enforce dress codes to attract a specific type of clientele.

“It’s a tough call. You try to run a business that you want your clientele to come to and unfortunately some people may get offended by what you do or don’t do, whether it’s a dress code or drink special,” Pier said. “Unfortunately, there [are] all sorts of things that offend certain folks.”

Pier said the protest was important to the students involved if they want to change things.

“They have the right to protest. That’s the beauty of living in America: if you don’t like something, you have the right to try to change it. As long as [protesters] go about it respectfully, they have that right,” Pier added.

Pier added he does not think bar owners created dress codes with any racist intentions. Dress codes are in place, he said, because the bar owners are trying to keep away problems they have experienced in the past.

“People should be addressing the problem that … owners are trying to eliminate,” Pier said.