Updated Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017, 6 a.m. EST: Days after a black man, Brian Gordon, was denied entry to Richard Sandoval’s El Centro D.F. restaurant in Washington, D.C., because he was wearing sneakers, even though white patrons wearing sneakers were allowed entry, Ayyaz Rashid, managing partner of the Sandoval Restaurant Group, informed The Root that the bouncer who denied Gordon entry has been fired. In addition to firing the racist bouncer, the restaurant has removed its “no sneaker” policy.
“The security in question has been relieved of his duties and will no longer be working at the venue. Furthermore, there will be no dress code applied anymore at all. Not to stop there, I am scheduling a training workshop for the rest of the team to make sure such incidents may never happen again,” Rashid stated.
Although Sandoval wasn’t available because of overseas travel, Rashid noted that Sandoval wants to make sure similar incidents do not occur anymore and that he’s taking the complaints very seriously.
Richard Sandoval’s restaurants are quite popular when it comes to their seemingly authentic Mexican fare. But when it comes to Sandoval’s El Centro D.F., located on 14th Street in Washington, D.C., you’ll find it hard to gain entry into the establishment if you’re a black man or other person of color wearing sneakers.
On Saturday night, after dining at El Centro D.F., my party of three was supposed to turn into a party of four, but the fourth person, a black man, was denied entry into the restaurant because he had on sneakers. Imagine my shock when my friend Sarah Huny Young relayed the message to me because, right before my very own eyes, was a group of white men wearing—you guessed it—sneakers.
Not only were the three white guys posted at the bar in sneakers, but there were also three other men on the dance floor wearing various styles of sneakers. Since it was still early in the night, there was a total of about nine people in the basement bar area, not including the bartenders, and it was pretty easy to assess everyone’s footwear.
After about 10 minutes, with the help of a bartender, our friend in sneakers was “allowed” entry into the restaurant. But imagine if the bartender wasn’t someone we knew? Our friend would have been assed out and left outside in the cold. Once our friend got into the bar, we pointed out everyone else wearing sneakers (even a pair of DC sneakers similar to his), just so he could see the hypocrisy. We thanked the bartender for helping us and then left. But not before we had a few words with the bouncer. This is “John.”
And that’s John’s face after I asked him why he had refused our friend entry but let a bunch of white people wearing sneakers enter the restaurant. John’s reply: He “didn’t care.” John’s accomplice, another white bouncer, exited the scene immediately when he was asked the same question:
What people should realize is that this “door racism” isn’t an isolated incident. Just a quick scan of reviews on El Centro’s Facebook and Yelp pages will show that it’s happened on numerous occasions:
The above comments are just a sampling of people who say they have experienced the racist bouncers who work the door at El Centro D.F. You’d think that after all of these complaints, the restaurant would try to ensure that its “no sneaker” policy was enforced equally—that is, regardless of the amount of melanin in a person’s skin.
It’s a shame that along with the gentrification of the U Street and 14th Street corridors of D.C., black people and other people of color are being turned away, while white people are welcomed with open arms, even if they are wearing sneakers.
The Root has reached out to El Centro D.F. for a reply and will update this post when (and if) one is received.