Black Couple Say Georgia Restaurant Asked Them to Leave Because Man Wore Sneakers

A Black couple has accused a sushi restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia, of unfairly targeting them for dress code violations when they attempted to dine at the restaurant last week.

The restaurant's owner said the incident was not racially motivated and told Newsweek he takes responsibility for escalating the situation after learning more about the extenuating circumstances.

In a video of the incident that began circulating online, the male customer can be seen wearing white sneakers inside the Buckhead neighborhood's Umi restaurant. At one point during the minute-long video posted on Twitter, he can be heard calling the request for them to leave "pure racism."

Sneakers are identified on Umi's website as a violation of the restaurant's dress code, along with wearing baseball hats, athletic wear and sports jerseys. Men are also banned from wearing shorts, flip flops and tank tops inside the restaurant. Above the list of banned clothing and shoes, the restaurant website says in red, capitalized letters, "Dress code strictly enforced."

Atlanta, Georgia
Downtown office buildings photographed in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 28, 2019. A Black couple has accused a sushi restaurant in Atlanta of racism after they were removed for violating the restaurant's dress code. On Thursday, the restaurant owner told Newsweek the incident was not racially motivated but said it should have been handled differently. Raymond Boyd/Getty

Umi's owner, Farshid Arshid, told Newsweek the restaurant also alerts customers of its dress code on Open Table, the online reservation system that he said the customers in this incident used. Customers are also reminded of the dress code when employees call them to confirm their reservations, Arshid said.

The customer's wife told WAGA-TV that their issue with the restaurant's decision to ask them to leave wasn't about the dress code—it was about how another customer was seated inside while wearing sneakers of her own.

"How crazy is that," the man can be heard telling one of the restaurant's employees in the video. "She has on Adidas sneakers. You're telling me those are good?" The video zooms in on the feet of a white woman who appears to be wearing silver sneakers.

The man can be heard saying that he has been a customer at Umi before, a statement his wife reiterated to WAGA-TV. According to the couple, the man has worn sneakers inside the restaurant before but has never previously been denied service.

While the customers are ushered toward the door, the man can be heard saying he preferred to discuss the matter inside and added, "This is something you brought on yourself."

"This is pure racism," the man said. "She has on Adidas."

Arshid told Newsweek that he takes responsibility for the "operational failure" and said he called the customers shortly after events unraveled on October 23 to apologize.

"We absolutely failed," Arshid said. "In a climate where everything is so tense and there is so much negativity, we should be better than this."

Arshid told Newsweek that he had not initially realized another of the restaurant's customers was wearing sneakers at the time the couple was asked to leave. If he had realized that element of the situation at the time, Arshid said he would have handled the situation differently.

Arshid said he invited the customers to return, though they told him they were hesitant to do so. He told Newsweek that during his call with them, he told them he "felt like I failed as a human." Arshid added that he views the incident as a personal failure and wants to take a step back to avoid similar confrontations in the future.

"We made a mistake," he said. "I made a mistake that day, and I have to stand in front of it."