The dress code at the Power and Light District has been a controversy and a pain since the District opened. There are two recent events fueling more controversy lately. There has been a lawsuit filed claiming discrimination based on race. In addition, there is a report from city dispatched "secret shoppers" that Black folks were denied entry to the P&L District more often than White folks. In other words, the city sent out White people and Black people dressed identically to the P&L District to see what the response would be, and more of the Black people found themselves denied entry due to the way they were dressed, even when identically attired White people were admitted. The Secret Shopper type survey, if done correctly, and done enough times to get a good sized sample, impresses me more than the law suit. The law suit reflects one single event, at one time, involving a certain group of people. It has to be proved in a court of law. But the event, even when proved to have happened, may be an outlier. That's why the "shopper test" is more impressive.
I see the need for a dress code. There are two categories of clothing the District really wants to keep out: One, the just plain inappropriate. The slob stuff--torn and dirty clothing. The overly revealing stuff--underwear worn as shirts--wife beaters and camisoles. Too open and sexual, leaving nothing to the imagination. Clothing that is not dressy enough for a night on the town. Two, the clothing that has gained significance beyond its surface meaning. Athletic wear and "colors" that send gang messages are the main culprits here. Baggin' saggin' trousers are both slob clothes and message clothes. The crotch of the pants should be up near the crotch of the wearer. It's one thing if the trousers are cut big (like with wide legs); another to deliberately wear them big.
see more Epic Fails These two will definitely not get into the P&L District.
The problem is that many aspects of any dress code can be applied subjectively . Some dress codes are clear. No jacket, no service is a rule in many high end restaurants, especially in the east. They simply will not let you in without one. You could be rich, poor, Black or White, you are not getting in without that jacket. But when you start talking about the degree of bagginess of someone's pants, or the length of shorts or what is an acceptable t-shirt and what is not, then it can get a bit dicey. Anything that can be up to a person's judgment is a problem. That area of judgement is where lawsuits are born.
The folks at Power and Light may need to go the "all or nothing" route. Rule: NO white t-shirts, period. Rule: No sleeveless garments, period. Rule: NO athletic wear of any kind. Rule: No blue jeans. Rule: You must wear a belt (males). Rule: NO collarless shirts. You get the idea. Or they have to go the other way--no restriction at all for the district as a whole. (I would certainly allow a specific establishment to have its own rules. Word gets out on how you have to dress to go to certain places, and if a place is nice enough, and good enough at their business, they will flourish, even with a strict dress code.) The fear is that without a dress code, certain "elements" will go to the P&L District and cause problems. I don't know about "elements", but I do know that if I am nicely dressed, I am not going to go out of my way to cause trouble. The way people are dressed influences the overall tone and atmosphere of a place. I would say that people who are dressed up are less likely to steal, start fights and shoot each other.
Some see strict dress codes as racist, pointing at Black people in particular. However, Black people are not the only ones that dress "hip hop" or "gangster". And there is a way of dressing I would describe as "White Trash", and both Blacks and Whites can be seen dressing that way. If you make a cold rule that none of that will be allowed by anyone, that is not racist. The P&L District needs to say, "Yes, we do discriminate. We discriminate against slobs. Of any race. Go home and dress nicer, then come back, and we will welcome you here."
I just don't know if in the racially charged environment of early 21st century America, that this can be done without offending someone.