Guess who is not allowed to bowl?


Welcome to Lucky Strike Lanes in Gallery Place. Well. Actually, you’re not welcome, if you wear anything on the list.

The bowling alley-cum-bar is, allegedly, trying to foster an atmosphere of swankiness garnished with sartorial, posh cool. So it institutes a dress code that implicitly aims for the appropriate clientele.

From what I can intuit from the sign, the corporate owners really have a problem with:

  • People who have lost a lot of weight but haven’t updated their wardrobes. (Me?)
  • People who are proud to ride.
  • People who have just been exercising.
  • The working stiff.
  • Kids in need of orthodontics or people with bike helmets.

Oh, wait. Did I get it wrong? Is the dress code actually just aimed at young, urban men?

Listen, dress codes, uniformly applied, are not illegal (though I’m skeptical that this would be applied uniformly). And this isn’t a First Amendment issue; the bar policing customers is not the government holding a man down.

But there’s still a hefty element of prejudice involved. Let me explain.

From what I gather, the crowd is a harmonious mix of races (black, white, purple, etc.), most of them pretty. Or, as the sign suggests: neat, casual and fit.

Here’s the problem: The dress code, taken as a whole, is clearly intended to keep out some kind of undesirable riffraff. And that riffraff has been variously called thugs, gangsters or hoodlums. But lets cut the code words. The apparel prohibitions very much appear to be aimed at the clothing popular among young, urban men — black, brown and white — of the Hip Hop generation.

Lucky Strike isn’t, of course, the only venue that does this. Kansas City’s Power & Light District had a similar dress code a few years ago when I visited (and no, it wasn’t applied uniformly), though that apparently been relaxed in the face of opposition. Google the terms nightclub and “dress code” and lawsuit and you’ll find enough other places treading this path.

Various arguments pop up in defense of dress codes, particularly on the security and gang issue. That reasoning goes something like this: People who dress this way are more likely to be in gangs. Gangs are more likely to be violent. Violence puts a damper on the evening.

Even if the assumptions underlying that logic chain are valid (hint: one of them is broken), I still dispense with such reasoning in one quick rhetorical wave: If a bar is concerned about security, maybe it should provide better security (and/or less alcohol), not fashion tips.

If we’re being charitable, Lucky Strike’s rules are simply classist. But the proscription is, in my opinion, narrow to the point of excluding a club of people based on social or cultural values.

Lucky Strike dress code, thy name is legal discrimination. More than reason enough for me to skip bowling night.

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