A Texas restaurant's decision to refuse service to anyone who smells like weed is kicking up a cloud of online controversy.
E-Bar Tex Mex, a popular bar and restaurant located in East Dallas, has posted a sign on its window that clearly states: “If you have the smell of marijuana on you we will not serve you.” The restaurant's anti-weed policy has actually been in effect for five years, but the story went viral after a patron shared a photo of the sign on Facebook. Some former E-Bar patrons said they will now boycott the restaurant, while others simply criticized the decision as a bad business policy.
“You'd think a restaurant would WANT guests with the munchies, they gonna order a lot of food!” one commenter said. “Pretty dumb from a business perspective. Especially since alcohol is the drug that gets people rowdy...”
"Thanks for the heads up on that. Not so much tryna stick it to their business more than just wanted to be in a place I’m not gonna get my high blown lol," one former customer wrote. "I always smell like weed tho…. & e bar queso was my favorite. Lame," another commenter added.
E-Bar's decision may be controversial, but it is entirely legal. “Like other businesses, Texas restaurants can deny service to customers as long as they follow federal, state and local non-discrimination laws," said Kelsey Erickson Streufert, chief public affairs officer at the Texas Restaurant Association, to the Dallas Observer.
But although Dallas strictly prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, or national origin, some restaurants are reportedly using vaguely-worded dress codes to refuse service to people of color. Several local restaurants have been accused of racial discrimination over the years, and some of these stories went viral as well. And even today, Black Texans are still getting kicked out of restaurants for wearing sneakers or shorts, while white patrons wearing similar clothes are allowed in.
“These dress codes are extremely vague on purpose,” comedian Josh Drake, who was forced out of an Uptown Dallas restaurant because his dining companion was wearing shorts, told the Dallas Observer. “They're left up to the interpretation of the person that holds the authority. … It's strategically written that way to be biased, and it was written in a way to allow them the final authority.”
Some Dallas restaurants have been sued for implementing racially discriminatory seating policies. In 2015, the now-closed Kung Fu Saloon was federally sanctioned for deliberately limiting the number of Black and Asian patrons allowed in their establishment. The Vandelay Hospitality Group was also sued twice for using dress codes to expel lower-income and non-white customers.
These kinds of lawsuits rarely succeed, though, because defendants must prove that restaurants' vague dress codes were specifically used to discriminate against them. Texas allows businesses to discriminate against patrons for non-racial reasons, and the US Supreme Court has recently backed up companies' rights to discriminate against groups that are not protected by federal law.
Cannabis users are another group that is not protected by federal non-discrimination laws. Marijuana is illegal under both Texas and federal law, so businesses have free reign to ban anyone who smells like weed from their establishments.