Over the weekend, a local grill and bar, Hillstone, in Park Cities faced accusations of having a racist dress code that is selectively enforced by TikToker Blakely Thornton.
Thornton, visiting his hometown of Dallas from New York City, posted that he went with a friend to grab pre-dinner drinks at the bar. However, Thornton and his party left without being seated, after a restaurant employee allegedly told him his outfit didn’t meet its dress code requirements.
Per Hillstone Restaurant Group’s corporate website, its dress code says: “Guest attire can elevate or diminish the experience of others. We consider hats, tank tops, flip flops, and team athletic attire too casual for our restaurants. Our staff takes pride in their appearance and we ask our guests to respect our attire guidelines.”
Thornton posted a photo of his outfit and detailed it — he was in a half-zip sweater, worn under a vintage Calvin Klein sleeveless denim vest, pants he calls “multi-colored slacks,” and driving loafers (slip-on loafers). The employee cited his “cutoffs” as a reason for not seating him, according to Thornton. Speaking to Eater Dallas, Thornton clarified that the Hillstone employee he talked to told him his vest was considered “cutoffs” and that was the reason he violated its dress code.
“The bottom line is, what [they] told me isn’t on the dress code,” Thornton tells Eater Dallas. “The dress code is racist, clearly, but I’m not in violation of it.”
Eater Dallas reached out to the Hillstone location for a comment. The employee who answered offered no comment, and referred us to the restaurant group’s online comment form. Eater Dallas submitted a request for comment to the Hillstone Restaurant Group, but has not received a response after 24 hours.
Thornton says his group left the restaurant to get a drink elsewhere after this interaction.
A point often made in reports of dress codes that exclude Black diners, including these out of Washington D.C. and Atlanta, and that Thornton made when he spoke to Eater Dallas, is that white diners often are not excluded for violations when a call is made at the staff’s discretion. Thornton noted that there were men at the bar in dirty golf shirts who appeared to have just played a round, and a woman in a trucker hat and a tube top — all of which felt far more casual than his outfit to him.
Obtuse, overly broad restaurant dress codes enforced by employees “are a tool to codify de facto segregation, keeping Black customers out of ‘white’ businesses,” Eater’s Jaya Saxena wrote in a 2020 report.