A D.C. restaurant is being called racist after allegedly blocking a black man from going inside because of his shoes.
Customers said El Centro D.F. Restaurant on 14th Street had a 'no sneaker' policy, but it was not always enforced on everybody.
It was supposed to be a fun night on Friday last week when Yesha Callahan, who is the deputy managing editor at The Root, and some friends went to El Centro D.F. Restaurant.
“We were waiting for a mutual friend to come. He was a black guy who couldn't get in,” Callahan told WUSA9.
When asked why the friend was not allowed inside, Callahan replied, “Oh, because he had on sneakers.”
The problem for Callahan was that white people were still allowed inside wearing sneakers and not dress shoes.
“I took a picture,” she said. “I was like wait a minute. Let me take a picture just so I can document this.”
Callahan wrote about the experience on TheRoot.com, and the story seemed to blow up on social media.
“A lot of people have said that the same thing has happened to them,” Callahan said.
Reviews on Facebook and Yelp called out the restaurant about the 'no sneaker' policy by calling it racist and discriminatory to people of color.
“It makes me really pissed off,” Kazimir McMahon, who lives in the area, said.
McMahon said the same thing happened to one of his friends.
“He was the only African American out of the group. He came in wearing just some sneakers. He was told sorry we can't seat you here because of what you're wearing,” McMahon explained. “I would consider it mildly racist.”
When asked if race played a factor, Callaway had this to say.
"Yeah. Whoever that person was at the door — the bouncer. I think it definitely did play a factor," she said.
WUSA9 reached out to the Richard Sandoval Restaurant group, the company that owns El Centro D.F.
A spokesperson provided the following statement:
We took immediate action and did an internal inquiry over Christmas Eve & Christmas Day. The result was the immediate removal of the individual in question.
We also made sure that our entire team is also updated that no such policy should be enforced at the venue.
Furthermore we reached out to the gentlemen and his friends who were involved and a formal apology was also issued.
Additionally we are in process of retraining our staff to make sure, something like that never ever happens again.
We have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind. We are proud to be a diverse group of individuals working together as a team and it was important for us to deal with something like this immediately and swiftly.
“It shouldn't take something going viral to get change. Because people have been complaining about it on their Facebook page and their Yelp page for years,” Callahan said.
It is worth noting that some people who identified themselves as white men on Reddit claimed they had been denied entry into the restaurant because of their sneakers, too.