Sam Sayed was excited to show his out-of-town friends his hometown.
Sayed was born in Dallas, grew up in Arlington and lived in Fort Worth for six years before he moved to Philadelphia to attend graduate school at Drexel University. During his spring break, he invited his friends to DFW to show them where he was from and a good time, he said.
So last month, he said, he was not only horrified, but ashamed to find that his friend Stephen, a black man from the Bronx, was turned away from Varsity Tavern, a popular bar in the West 7th area, supposedly because he was wearing Jordans sneakers. However, Sayed and Stephen say Stephen was turned away because of his race.
Four other people told the Star-Telegram that they believe they were barred entrance to the bar, or saw someone denied entrance, because of their race when bouncers used selective enforcement of the dress code.
The manager of the bar declined to speak to the Star-Telegram on the record. The bar issued this prepared statement: “Varsity Tavern takes these incidents and accusations very seriously and we are in the process of doing an internal investigation into this matter."
A casual night
Sayed said he noticed people were dressed casually at the Varsity Tavern when he and his friends decided to go in. Others already inside were wearing sneakers. But the bouncer at the door who turned Stephen away cited the tavern’s dress-code policy, saying he couldn’t allow anyone wearing Jordans into the establishment.
About an hour later at a bar across the street, Sayed, Stephen and the rest of their group met another friend, Sean Gallagher, and decided to test their theory about why Stephen wasn’t allowed into Varsity.
Gallagher, who is white, put on Stephen’s Jordans and Stephen put on Gallagher’s Sperrys, a type of boat shoe. The group made its way back to Varsity and from a distance, Sayed and Stephen watched as a different bouncer let Gallagher into the bar without questioning his outfit or his shoes.
Stephen and Sayed got in line to get their IDs checked again. Come Stephen’s turn, the bouncer triple-checked his shoes before allowing him in, Sayed said.
“It ruined [Stephen's] whole night when he realized what had just happened,” Sayed said.
Once the group made it into the bar, Stephen and Gallagher switched their shoes. Stephen, who asked that his last name not be used, said a security guard came up to them almost immediately and asked Stephen how he had gotten in with Jordans. The guard told him he had to leave. They did.