After a shooting at State Street Brats this month, the business is considering implementing a dress code to curb gun and gang-related violence.
The dress code has not yet been specified, but State Street Brats management is currently discussing what it would entail, Kelly Meuer, State Street Brats general manager, said. State Street Brats management had not previously ever considered a dress code.
“After the shooting, we feel we might need to have a dress code,” Meuer said.
Other bars in the area, including Whiskey Jack’s and Wando’s, currently have a dress code. Whiskey Jack’s declined to comment for this article.
Brats is currently engaged with other bars in the downtown Madison area to determine what other dress codes look like and how they affect business, Meuer said.
Brats is not fully committed to adopting a dress code, but as it becomes an increasingly popular policy both within Madison and throughout the country, it should be considered as an option, Meuer said.
“It’s not etched in stone, but everyone else seems to be doing it,” Meuer said.
One of the issues frequently that bars face when implementing dress codes are accusations of creating policies that are racist, Ald. Zach Wood, District 8, said.
Lucía Nuñez, director of the city’s Department of Civil Rights, told The Badger Herald last year that bars are permitted to have dress codes as long as they are enforced equally for every person. When bars do not enforce the dress code for everyone, it becomes unclear as to whether or not the bar is profiling by experience, Nuñez said.
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Amid four shootings that occurred last week in the city, the Madison Police Department has made some connections to gang-related activities, Wood said.
“Whenever you have something that is designed to, for example, deter gang violence, for something like a dress code, you end up profiling people who fit the stereotype of a gang member,” Wood said.
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Some dress codes in other cities have received backlash for standards that were too general or allowed for discrimination, with dress codes often prohibiting items like baggy clothing, Wood said.
These dress codes may not be intentionally discriminatory, but the potential for discrimination should not be ignored, Wood said.
“I think it is certainly debatable as to whether or not those things even work, and to whether or not bars want to deter people who happen to wear a certain kind of clothing from coming into their establishments,” Wood said.
The discussion about bar dress codes should be ongoing, but bars should also be looking at other means of deterring violence in the downtown Madison area, Wood said.
“To put it in perspective, in 25 years we have had one incident,” Meuer said. “It’s so not Madison.”