I’ve never dined at upscale eatery Le Bilboquet in Atlanta before, but if Dominique Wilkins’ previous experience there is any indication, I think it’s safe to assume that I never will.
On Saturday, the NBA legend took to Twitter to call out the popular French restaurant for refusing him service. Allegedly it was because of his attire, but as anyone who’s familiar with Wilkins knows, the dude doesn’t even leave the house without looking like a GQ model. So let’s just call a thing a thing and say his skin made for the perfect sin.
“In my many years in the world, I’ve eaten at some of the greatest restaurants in the world,” he tweeted. “But never have I felt prejudice or been turned away because of the color of my skin, until today in #atlanta In @LeBilboquetAtl #turnedawaybecauseimblack”
For those who think the Hall of Famer is full of shit, during a subsequent interview with CNN, Don Lemon noted that the restaurant said that Wilkins “wasn’t dressed fashionably enough” to be allowed entry. The 61-year-old immediately killed that noise.
“I’m dressed better than most of the guys that was in there,” Wilkins said, after explaining that he was denied a table even though there were plenty available. “Very chic dressed. I had a nice pullover shirt, long cargo black pants, with nice sneakers. Now, to the left of me, it was three white guys coming in with shorts, T-shirts, and sneakers.”
After expressing his confusion as to why he was still being denied service, he shared what the restaurant then told him: “‘We’re trying to keep a level of elegance in our restaurant so we can’t seat you at all.’”
In response to these claims, Mark Hoefer, Le Bilboquet’s general manager, told CBS46 that this whole debacle had nothing to do with race and Wilkins was wearing track pants that weren’t compliant with the restaurant’s dress code.
“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.” Hoefer said. “He was in track pants, and we were being consistent with our policy. If we would have let him because of his celebrity status, we would have been discriminatory toward everyone we’ve turned away, based on that same policy.”
But didn’t Wilkins say they were letting white people in with shorts?
“People try to flip this, twist it, and turn it, and make it something that it’s not, instead of what it is.” Wilkins said.
Also of note, three days prior to Wilkins’ claim, another Black person approached CBS46 and accused Le Bilboquet of discriminatory behavior. And if the restaurant’s Yelp reviews are any indication, racism has been a secret ingredient in their signature dishes for a hot minute now.
So with an outpouring of outrage damaging its reputation and its profitability at stake, Le Bilboquet realized its initial “apology” over the weekend wasn’t enough—the restaurant pinned the blame on receiving “consistent complaints from our patrons regarding other guest’s wardrobe choices”—and instead offered a second apology on Monday as it attempts to correct course:
“We sincerely apologize to Dominique Wilkins for the events that occurred on May 22. No patron of our restaurants should be made to feel unwelcome or less than, and for that we are deeply sorry. It was never our intention to make Mr. Wilkins—or anyone else for that matter—feel that way at our restaurant.”
Le Bilboquet has also committed itself to reevaluating its dress code and providing “diversity, equity, and inclusion training” for its employees.
“A first step,” Wilkins replied on Twitter. “This is a testament to the power of all of you. My fans and everyone from #atlanta You are why this change is happening. Together we can have a impact #TrueToAtlanta #change”
Sure, Le Bilboquet learned its lesson, but if only racism throughout the rest of the globe was as easy to identify and eradicate.
I still ain’t going to Le Bilboquet, though.