A sushi restaurant in Atlanta has been accused of “pure racism” after denying service to a Black couple who did not adhere to its “strict” anti-sneaker policy.
William Johnson and Kaylan Colbert say that they have dined at Umi Sushi in Buckhead multiple times, but it was only last week when staff called them out for violating the dress code.
On Oct. 23, Johnson entered the restaurant with his white Nike Air Force 1 sneakers — the same pair he had previously worn inside without issue, Colbert claims.
Under its “strictly enforced” dress code, Umi Sushi prohibits ball caps, sneakers, athletic wear and sports jerseys for all, while men cannot wear shorts, flip-flops or tank tops.
In a now-viral video, Johnson can be seen arguing with restaurant staff over the policy, which he and Colbert felt was arbitrarily enforced.
The couple especially felt more livid after they saw an older White woman dining just fine with her tennis shoes on.
“This is pure racism, she has on Adidas,” Johnson says in the video. He challenged the staff to explain themselves.
“I get where you’re coming from,” the staff responds. “Please, we’re all minorities here.”
It’s unclear how the White woman managed to keep her sneakers.
“We were standing by her, but they are refusing to look down at her shoes to confirm that she has on sneakers,” Colbert, who filmed the scene, told Eater. “At one point, someone does look down and says, ‘They’re high-end sneakers.’ The lady actually kicks her foot out and she said, ‘Yeah, these are Adidas.’”
The situation continued outside the restaurant, involving Umi Sushi owner Farshid Arshid. For several occasions, he and Johnson had to be physically separated.
“He’s going to go to jail tonight,” Arshid says in the video. “I’m not letting Air Force 1s in my establishment.”
The Iranian restaurant owner believes that the hostess missed the White woman’s shoes because she was seated at the bar.
“We have a policy, we ask people to adhere to it. We don’t look at your shoes when you come in,” Arshid told USA Today.
Colbert, who works as a personal injury lawyer, took the video to Instagram earlier this week. As of this writing, the post has received over 173,000 views and calls to boycott Umi Sushi.
“This is sad man, the way the owner acted is SICKING,” one user commented.
Arshid says he called Johnson and Colbert 30 minutes after the incident. However, the couple has not accepted his apology.
“This was completely, 100%, an operational mistake on our end. When they got upset we should have investigated that,” Arshid told Fox 5.
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