An Atlanta restaurant has apologized to NBA legend Dominique Wilkins after he claimed that he was turned away from the eatery because of the color of his skin.
The former professional basketball player, 61, took to Twitter on Saturday to allege that Le Bilboquet, a French bistro in Atlanta, refused to serve him because he is black.
Mr Wilkins, who played for the Atlanta Hawks and was a nine-time NBA All-Star, claimed that he was told there were no seats available, before being informed he wasn’t dressed ‘fashionably acceptable’.
Wilkins said he was wearing ‘sporty casual’ – with ‘casual pants,’ a red shirt and sneakers. A woman working at the restaurant said Wilkins was wearing sweatpants … ‘and we’re trying to keep a level of elegance.’
On the restaurant’s website, it says ‘collared shirts are suggested for gentlemen’ and says that ‘casualwear,’ including sweatpants and athletic attire’ are ‘considered too informal for the dining experience we provide.’
Still, the restaurant has since issued a number of statements on social media, with the latest apologizing to Mr Wilkins for ‘his experience’ and any ‘confusion’ their dress code caused.
NBA legend Dominique Wilkins (pictured), 61, took to Twitter on Saturday to allege that Le Bilboquet, a French bistro in Atlanta, refused to serve him because he is black
The upscale restaurant (pictured) has issued a number of statements on social media, with the latest issuing a public apology to Mr Wilkins for ‘his experience’
Mark Hoefer, the manager of Le Bilboquet, denied racism was a factor in Mr Wilkins being turned away and said they never wanted him to feel ‘discriminated against’ during his visit on Saturday afternoon.
The restaurant’s latest Twitter statement read: ‘We want to apologize to Mr. Wilkins for his experience at our restaurant and also for any confusion our dress code may have caused.
‘We in no way intended for him to feel unwanted, and welcome an open dialogue with him. Our upscale dining experience and our brand’s culture is made up of multiple elements, which include our music, our food and our patrons’ attire.
‘We continue to strive to manifest our dining experience in a way that is exciting and most importantly, inclusive.’
The controversy kicked off after Mr Wilkins posted on Twitter on Saturday, claiming that he was turned away from the upscale bistro because of the color of his skin.
He wrote: ‘In my many years in the world, I’ve eaten at some of the greatest restaurants in the world, but never have I felt prejudice or been turned away because of the color of my skin, until today in #atlanta #turnedawaybecauseimblack’
The NBA legend (pictured playing for Atlana Hawks in 1998) said he was told by the bistro there were no tables available, before they said he was not dressed ‘fashionably acceptable’
Manager Mark Hoefer denied racism was a factor in Mr Wilkins being turned away and said they didn’t wanted him to feel ‘discriminated against’. Pictured: Statement from restaurant
The NBA legend said he was first told there were no tables available, insisting that he had ‘checked’ if they needed reservations and had seen many empty seats outside.
He penned: ‘Crazy man, they said there are no seats available when u can clearly see many available’
Another tweet added: ‘When I first got there, they said no tables, then they said I was not dressed fashionably enough. I guess if there were no tables, then why the follow up comment?’
Mr Wilkins also claimed he was then told by a member of staff that he wasn’t ‘dressed fashionably acceptable’ despite wearing ‘designer’ pants.
He continued: ‘I would have been fine if they said just no tables. But they looked me up and down before that and then said that and to add insult, talked about how my clothes were not appropriate when I was wearing designer casual pants and a shirt.’
The basketball star also thanked all his fans for the ‘love and support’ he had received since detailing the incident on his social media account.
The restaurant’s manager Mr Hoefer has since told 11Alive that their dress code, which has been in place since May 2020, prohibits ‘athletic wear’ and ‘overly revealing’ clothing, claiming Mr Wilkins was wearing tracksuit bottoms.
He told the news channel: ‘We never want anyone to feel in this community discriminated against, most especially the color of their skin, especially someone whose a pillar of this community like Mr Wilkins.’
Mr Hoefer added that he wants to have a ‘personal’ conversation with Mr Wilkins about and said he hopes the incident won’t become a ‘divide’ as he ‘loves’ the basketball star.
The eatery previously put out a number of statements on social media before their most recent apology, which have since been removed, according to 11Alive.
The controversy kicked off after Mr Wilkins posted on Twitter on Saturday (above), claiming that he was turned away from the upscale restaurant because of the color of his skin
The former basketball player (pictured playing for Orlando Magic in 1999) also said he has no intention of returning to the restaurant following the incident
One tweet read: ‘We do our best to accommodate all of our guests. We have a ‘business casual’ dress code which includes jeans & sneakers but prohibits athletic clothing including sweat pants & tops. The definition of ‘casual’ is ever evolving, we strive to maintain our policy requirements daily.’
While another apologized for the confusion their dress code caused, saying: ‘Our dress code policy is not meant to offend anyone but rather provide our guests with an acceptable clothing guide.’
It added: ‘We are very sorry that our attempt to maintain consistency in our dress code policy caused Mr. Wilkins to feel unwanted in our restaurant as that was not our intention and would welcome an open dialogue with him.’
Mr Wilkins has since spoken to CBS46 about the incident, claiming that he was wearing striped casual pants, a red shirt and sneakers during his visit.
He said: ‘As I’m walking in, I notice right away, that they’re sizing me up, they’re looking me up before I even said a word.’
The former Atlanta Hawks player also added that he has no intention of returning to the restaurant following the incident.
Meanwhile, manager Mr Hoefer told the news network that racism was not a factor, adding: ‘He was turned away because he was not in compliance with our dress code, it has nothing to do with the color of his skin.’