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Dreadlocks don't cut it at St. Louis bar By ELIZABETHE HOLLAND
Post-Dispatch
updated: 06/06/2003 02:18 AM

Cheshire Inn incident split up wedding party

As a man working the door at the Cheshire Inn stepped toward Shelby
Carter
and friend Brian Williams, Carter figured he merely wanted to be sure
the
two were old enough to have a drink at the bar.

Age, as it turned out, wasn't the problem. The men's hairstyles were,
Carter
said.

"He started moving toward me, so I figured I'd get my ID out. ...
That's
when he said it," said Carter of the May 17 incident. "He said, 'Sorry,
you can't come in, sir. We have a no-dreadlocks policy.' I didn't say
anything
at first. My jaw just dropped open. ... It was sickening."

Carter, 29, and Williams, 27, are African-American men who wear their
hair
in dreadlocks. Dreadlocks are formed naturally when hair is allowed to
mat, tangle and grow intertwined when not combed. While people of all
colors
wear dreadlocks, the style is most popular among African-Americans.

Carter and Williams are convinced they were prevented from entering the
bar for racist reasons.

"That had never happened any place before," Williams said.

Carter and Williams arrived after 11 p.m. at the St. Louis tavern at
6300
Clayton Road intent on having drinks with friends who had been at a
wedding
and the following reception at the Artists' Guild in Clayton. Once told
they couldn't enter the bar, Carter said he began arguing with the man
at the door, who was accompanied by two off-duty St. Louis city
officers
working at the pub.

Carter, of St. Louis, and Williams, of Rock Hill, became angry and
uttered
obscenities, but friends quickly ushered them to a car to leave, both
said.

Several wedding attendees, including the bride, challenged the man at
the
door, and tempers flared. When people from the wedding tried to
re-enter
the bar to tell others what had occurred, they were not allowed back
inside.

Three weeks later, Carter and Williams remain angry.

"Seeing as they had the nerve to do it, I wouldn't expect them to
apologize,"
Carter said.

Jack Lueders is president of the corporation that operates the Cheshire
Inn, a restaurant and bar alongside the Cheshire Lodge. Lueders leases
the property from Dan Apted, who owns and operates the Cheshire Lodge.

Lueders did not witness the incident but said he doesn't believe his
employees
or the off-duty police at the scene did anything wrong. He said he was
told that the men with dreadlocks were unruly, argumentative and had
used
offensive language. That behavior - not the dreadlocks - prevented
their
entry to the bar, he said.

The Cheshire Inn does have a dreadlocks policy, however, and Lueders
said
he believes it came up at the door.

Lueders said the business has a policy in which people with dreadlocks
are denied access if their hair is determined to be "dirty and stinky."
The business developed the policy initially as a means to prevent a
homeless
man in the area from coming into the bar, he said. That man is
African-American
and wears dreadlocks.

Lueders insisted the policy is not race-related.

"You can't wash that hair, and it stinks, and we're a crowded bar, and
we don't want stinky people in the bar," he said, explaining the
policy.
"If you look nice and you're obviously clean, nobody's going to go up
and
smell your hair."

Nobody attempted to smell Carter's or Williams' hair, said Carter, who
added that people with dreadlocks do, indeed, wash their hair.

Lueders said he was told the men were dressed well. Both wore collared
shirts, ties and dress pants, clothing they had worn to the wedding and
reception.

"I think the problem was with the person carding," Lueders
acknowledged.
"He didn't know whether to let them in or not and wanted to get a
manager
to make that decision. That's my guess. So they were detained (and)
they
didn't want to be detained."

Carter and Williams maintain they were well-mannered when they arrived
and that they were told right away they could not enter due to their
dreadlocks.

There have been many cases nationwide in which employees have filed
complaints
against their employers due to rules regarding ethnic hairstyles. There
are few examples, however, of businesses preventing access to customers
for such reasons.

In June 1999, Adolfo's Discotheque in Kansas City was criticized for a
dress code that disallowed, among other things, dreadlocks and braids.
Following an investigation by the Kansas City Human Relations
Department,
the nightclub rewrote the policy.

"The effect (of the dress code) was to limit the number of
African-Americans
who would go to the nightclub," said Mike Bates, the human relations
department's
director. "We saw it as a kind of method of setting up a quota system."

About the same time, an establishment by the name of Roadhouse Ruby's
South
in the suburb of Olathe, Kan., also changed its dress code after a
number
of complaints were made. The business had forbidden men from wearing
dreadlocks,
corn rows or braids.

Sheryl Rose, a regional manager with the Missouri Commission on Human
Rights,
said she has no recollection of any cases in the St. Louis area
regarding
patrons with dreadlocks.

Kenneth Jones, executive director of St. Louis' Civil Rights
Enforcement
Agency, said he, too, had never heard of such a policy. "I can't
imagine
that such a policy would exist in the city of St. Louis," Jones said.

The Cheshire Inn is in St. Louis, while its neighbor, the lodge, lies
in
Richmond Heights.

Apted said the lodge and its Fox & Hounds tavern do not have policies
regarding
dreadlocks.

Despite the claims of racism, Lueders said the issue boils down to the
behavior of Carter and Williams, not skin color.

"We could care less about black or white; it was their behavior to our
police officers that got them in trouble," Lueders said. "We wouldn't
be
in business if we discriminated. ... Some of our best customers are
black."

Kate Marquess Swift, whose wedding Carter and Williams had attended,
said
the incident marred what had been a wonderful evening. When Swift
learned
her friends had been turned away, she hoped she could talk the man at
the
door into letting them in.

"I came out in my wedding dress thinking that was going to sway them in
some way," Swift recalled. "It was like talking to a wall. He said,
'I'm
sorry, ma'am. This is policy. No dreadlocks.'

"He didn't seem to understand why we were offended by that."

Carter Law, Swift's mother and an attorney, said she wants the Cheshire
Inn to apologize.

"It was very mortifying and it was very offensive," Law said. "It was
such
a lovely evening that it was really a shame to have that happen."

Reporter Elizabethe Holland: E-mail: eholland@post-dispatch.com Phone:
314-340-8259
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