Kung Fu Saloon: Racist Or Simply Wary of Customers Who Like Air Jordans and Hennessy?

Categories: City Hall, News

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DeAndre Upshaw's photograph of the shoes he says got him barred from Kung Fu last week.
The group of 100 or so people who demonstrated in person against Kung Fu Saloon this Wednesday had no hard proof that the bar excludes black people. The official reason why they couldn't get in, their stories went, had to do with fashion.

"My jeans were too baggy," said Ryan Phipps, a 27-year-old black man, recounting his attempt to get into Kung Fu Saloon last month. The bouncers stopped him, blaming it on a pants style he insists he would never wear. "Who wears baggy jeans in 2014?"

While strict dress codes are common at bars in Uptown, along with rumors that bouncers are racist, the supposed dress code violations stand out especially at a tacky dive bar like Kung Fu, where there are no fewer than 11 television sets and 20 arcade games, and a $1 drink special on Sundays called "ninja pricing."

"We're not talking about the Four Seasons. This is an adult Chuck E. Cheese," DeAndre Upshaw, the self-described "loudmouth" who organized Wednesday's event told the crowd. His event, held at a nearby Italian restaurant, was more of a dinner and press conference than an outright protest, with a short talk and a non-confrontational walk around the block by where Kung Fu is located. It was the first live meet-up of the #NoKungFu campaign Upshaw started online last week. "If this is happening at a glorified mall arcade," he added, "imagine what's happening with other places around Dallas."

A company email provided by a former employee to Unfair Park suggests that race does play a factor in the screening process for Kung Fu, at least for blacks hoping to reserve bottle service and a party room ahead of time. The email, dated September 2012, is written by Ethan Minshew, the bar's general manager at the time. He instructs event coordinator Stephanie Guidry on bottle service requests: "If a request asks for Hennessy or cognac, it could be with a group that we might need to screen a bit more. I'll follow up with more on Monday regarding that."

His email ends at that, just an implication of racism. Cognac, and Hennessy in particular, are a cliched drink of choice for black people. ("Hennessy may be the unofficial official spirit of Black America," Ebony magazine reported that same year).

Minshew didn't respond to Facebook messages and an email we left him; a bouncer on duty at Kung Fu Wednesday night referred our questions to corporate, which has yet to respond as well. News stations in other cities where Kung Fu is located have leveled racism allegations at the Austin-based chain in past years, though the company has continued to deny it has a racist policy.

Stephanie Guidry, the event coordinator who received that email, reached out to Upshaw and agreed to show up to talk Wednesday. She'd been fired from the company more than a year ago, in January 2013. Most of the racism was unofficial, as she described it, with orders to call up people with ethnic names to make sure they didn't sound too ghetto. Guidry, who is white, told the crowd that she got fired after she allowed a large group of her Asian friends in one night. (In a follow-up email, she clarified that official reason she thinks she got fired was because of a billing fight she got into with a hair salon she patronized that was also hosting an event at Kung Fu.)

Black people can easily be spotted inside Kung Fu, and several black women said they'd never had personal problems getting in, but had seen their male counterparts targeted.

The feeling among young blacks who try partying in Uptown -- expressed in interviews with Unfair Park, publicly at the protest and on social media -- is that there's some kind of arbitrary limit set at the clubs. Blacks are allowed in bars, but just not too many, and the bouncers hide behind the dress codes as an excuse. "If it gets too dark inside they don't let you in," says Amaechi Egwuagu, giving his take on the whole scene. "I don't even bother with Uptown no more."

At Kung Fu, Will Copling went last summer with a group of 20 or friends, he says, and it was only the blacks in his group, including himself, who couldn't get past the bouncers. "They basically stopped us from going in because they said one of our guys' shorts was too long."

Jordan London says he got a similar response when he showed up wearing something like capri pants. Those shorts were also deemed too long.

Melanie Locke's husband Derrick wasn't allowed in when the couple showed up for a friend's birthday party, supposedly for wearing his tracksuit, says Locke, who is white. Her husband changed and returned, only to find that he was violating the dress code again with his Air Jordan shoes.

And, in October 2012, a Sikh man emailed Guidry and the rest of the staff about his experience trying to get into the bar wearing a turban: "I was told I'm not allowed inside with a do rag and that I do not look like I belong here," he wrote.

For Upshaw, his campaign and online petition began after he told a story of not being let in for wearing Converse high-tops. After he made noise last week, Kung Fu posted a generic dress code on its window and website. Among other clothing, it broadly bans "improperly fit clothing; baggy pants, overly tight clothes, or clothes that expose body parts or undergarments." There's no mention of sneakers or capri pants. Or a taste for Hennessy.


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137 comments
Steven
Steven

I have been to Kung Fu several times with black people. I think one of my friends was wearing flip flops once and still got in. This is about douchey door guys that get off on being stereotypical white Uptown dickbags. Not racism. If you want to protest something about Kung Fu, protest their hiring policies.

xdarkridex
xdarkridex

I don't have a single clue why anyone of color would want to go here.  I also don't understand why anyone white would want to go here, given this.  I especially can't understand why someone in a competing place nearby doesn't widely advertise that they aren't like this and generally run these yahoos into the ground by gathering all the extra business from them.  


Most of all, I do NOT understand why, if someone is going to be an insufferable racist, they'd even run a business where they have to engage in this level of shenanigans to keep things as white as they can handle.  Get into another field, where you can protect your pathology and avoid all those nasty dark people that get you so worked up.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Hold on a 'mo!  I'm getting confused about which Myrna you folks are replying to. 

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz

Observer seems to be stoking the race pimp flames pretty hard these days. Running a lot of articles about racism. 


Marching orders for the midterms or simply trying to prop up falling advertiser dollars?

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz

If a bar chooses not to serve Hennessy they must be racist right?

Nick2456
Nick2456

"Black people can easily be spotted inside Kung Fu." Noooo... you don't say!  What kind of technology do they use to spot them in Kung Fu? Sounds fancy! This new tech should help set Kung Fu apart from all of the other bars, where I can't discern what color someone is. 


I love that line... thanks for the laugh

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Bouncer thought process: (Too many dudes.  Need more good looking chicks.  we're at room capacity.  TABC is in the building and moving around.  Punk quotient off the charts right now. Pit boss is in my ear.  pull the dress code schtick.)

"Naw man, we gotta dress code."

next ugly dude (he'll want $20 to get in)

"Racism?"

silence

"next"


CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum topcommenter

I'm already boycotting the place, but mostly because I'm allergic to affluenza-addled douchebags.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

Before Lowest Greenville was redone this was pretty commonplace down there. Every bar except The Winedale had a posted dress code. Shit even The Goat has one now. It's how they try to stem violence, which you can spot coming pretty easily.

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

What 27 year old man wears long baggy shorts and sneakers and goes to an adult Chuck E Cheese for entertainment?  Come on sir!  Adulthood is on line one.  Pick up the handset, answer the call and move on!

Threeboys
Threeboys

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz  Myrna, I don't agree with you often (whether I reply or not) but I do find it really chicken shit that someone has started a profile in your name and is saying that crap.

JustFYI
JustFYI

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz  Myrna.  I am pretty sure it is DOisDumDum using your name and he has already made some veiled threat under it suggesting that someone needed to be Trayvoned  as in Trayvon Martin.  He has slandered a few people in a beyond disgusting even for the words used on the blog. You might let them know....if thought it is an alias I know you use your post your real name and information at time.s

Threeboys
Threeboys

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz 

About 10 years ago I sold Hennessy.  I was told by a bar owner in Deep Ellum that he wouldn't bring in Hennessy nor Hypnotic because he "didn't want that crowd" and a few other things that I won't repeat.


So does it make a bar owner racist NOT to carry Hennessy?  Not necessarily, but it was the motivation of this particular bar.

thechuckwilliams
thechuckwilliams

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz I was throwing a Christmas party for employees at a now-parking lot former bar on Yale. My guys wanted a round of Hennessey. I was told by the bartenders (out of earshot of everyone else) that they didnt carry that, because it was a white bar. This is back in 2004. So they guys got shots of Grand Marnier. I had no idea Hennessey was a black thing until that day.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@Nick2456

ProTip: You can usually pick them out by what they are drinking or wearing.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

If you've ever worked in a liquor store, there are a lot of common cultural tendencies. They're pretty obvious. Black men lean overwhelmingly to brandy/cognac. Black women lean towards sweet wine, especially moscato. Young white women used to go White Zinfandel but are more moscato now. White men lean towards whiskey, though if young tequila is in play. The really weird one is Hispanics love Buchanans scotch. I've never figured that out.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz I can't say.  But, for me, Courvoisier is a lovelier cognac.  It's a wonderful digestif and is exquisite for deglazing those precious bits left from caramelizing a superb cut of beef steak.

thereisaparty
thereisaparty

@P1Gunter There was no posted dress code. And the now available dress code (besides being lifted from Austin ISD) doesn't mention many of the things that have been reasons to deny entry in the past

NoFestivus4U
NoFestivus4U

@MikeWestEast You been to Uptown? That's all there is. The smell of "rain forest freshness" is strong!!! 

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz

@ms.josette.rigsby @Myrna.Minkoff-Katz  No one is saying anything about all black people. Even the Observer admits Kung Fu is not denying all black people.


What is the common connection?


Kung Fu probably wouldn't let Honey Boo Boo and her family in either. 


Garbage culture for garbage people. 

PerryMoore
PerryMoore

OK, I get your point about disco, but black people also gave us blues. You can't go around blaming a whole race for something that happened 40 years ago.

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

@Threeboys  Is the Hennessey crowd that particular they would just leave instead of ordering something else?  I do not understand the logic.  Is that something you can check on Yelp?

amy.silverstein
amy.silverstein

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz No, this article reports on an email Guidry got from her boss, that said:  "If a request asks for Hennessy or cognac, it could be with a group that we might need to screen a bit more." Why would a group who requests Hennessy need to be be screened a bit more? His email doesn't say, but between that, Guidry's anecdotes she shared about working there, Upshaw's activism and everyone else's stories they shared, it looks a lot like racism. 

wcvemail
wcvemail

@MikeWestEast @Threeboys

Assuming that's a serious question, because it's a good one, I'll venture that it's one more subtle log on the fire of the bar's entire approach. "Not only is your attire unacceptable, we don't serve Hennessy" sort of thing. But I can't imagine some sort of marquee saying "Warning to wanna-be-customers of a certain sort: we don't serve Hennessy."

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz @P1Gunter

You're just like school in the summertime . . .

No class.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

Is it because they have dark skin? No. It just seems to be a cultural thing. Koreans love Soju and no one else on earth drinks that shit. If you work in a store long enough you can gauge what a person will buy when they walk in the door pretty accurately. The outlier is always Africans. They drink Dornfelder (sweet German red wine) by the case, but I've seen them buy literally 70 cases of cristal. That's about $100,000 in French champagne. They then ship it to Africa to be resold.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@amy.silverstein  That thing used to dog me when I commented as Mrs.Katz over at CNN.  Watch it, because it will create a clone of you and a lot of others before long.

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