Another Day, Another Dress Code Dispute at Da Marco

Categories: Food Fight

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Photo by Kent Wang
Everyone: Da Marco has a dress code. Just so we're all clear.
Welp. It's been a solid eight months since someone last contacted us regarding a dress code issue at Da Marco.

Yesterday, we got an email from a reader who relayed the following tale of Da Marco dress code woe:

My family of four and my friend got kicked out of DaMarco last night...My son had a navy blazer, white oxford button down shirt, and khaki (below the knee) shorts--given the 100 degree weather. He also had dark sneakers since I discovered too late that he had outgrown his dress shoes. I had no idea there was a dress code, "no sneakers, no shorts" policy. It says nothing on the website other than "jacket attire preferred" and they never said anything while making a reservation. My husband was in a suit, my daughter and I were in nice dresses. The hostess let me in to discuss plans with my husband who was already waiting inside...This was my husband's birthday celebration, and my husband and friend had already ordered $400 worth of wine which was opened and decanting in the back room. But while discussing our options, the manager came charging back to the table, yelling "Did I not make myself clear??? I said you are not allowed in the restaurant."

We called Da Marco to get their side of the story, and it was...well...a little different.

"Before they walked in, my hostesses informed them of the dress code," the general manager Nicholas Nikic explained. "We inform people on the phone, and it's written on the website and outside the restaurant."

The message regarding the dress code on the website isn't as specific as the supposed verbal instructions. It says, simply, "Please Dress In Jacket Preferred Attire."

When you make a reservation via OpenTable, the dress code policy is made a little more clear.

Message from the Restaurant: Thank you for choosing Da Marco. Should your plans change, please let us know. We look forward to serving you. Our dress code is bussiness casual no shorts or sandels allowed. [sic]

Nikic said the woman and her son walked into the restaurant under the pretense of going to the bathroom and talking briefly with her husband. Instead, they sat down at the table and tried to order.

"So I went to talk to them, and they just ignored me," Nikic said. "They were trying to order, and I told them they couldn't order because they didn't have a proper dress code. Just no matter what you say, we couldn't reason with them. Either you leave or you go change and come back. I went back for the third time, and finally they got up upset and left."

The woman who emailed us said that no one from Da Marco explained the specifics of the dress code when she called to make a reservation, but Nikic said they have a policy of telling all customers when they call.

"The hostess tells people they need to have dress shoes, dress pants and polo shirts," Nikic said. "I cannot emphasize enough that we told them up front."

He also said that he never talked to the woman, but spoke only to her husband, so her allegation that he yelled at her is false.

"We went four or five times to the table and tried to be as polite and professional as possible," he said. "We have the whole thing on camera if anyone wants to see it."

It appears at this point to be a real he said/she said incident, and one that leaves us with a few questions about dress codes in general.

First, at this point, does anyone not know the Da Marco dress code? Enough has been made of the restaurant's policy, which is one of few such policies remaining in Houston.

Which brings us to the next question: In Houston in 2014, should dress codes still be enforced? Dining in general has become much more casual than it was in the past. Of course, you could argue that Da Marco is one of only a handful of places that adheres to such strict standards of dress, which is somewhat refreshing in a sea of jeans and flip flops at many other restaurants.

What do you think?

Location Info

Da Marco

1520 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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52 comments
Richard Cerda
Richard Cerda

Dress code is a dress code. I used to see people roll into my work, a popular brunch spot, in pajamas. Yes people showed up in straight up PJ's. It was like they were in a competetion to prove who cared the least about what they wore. Let the dress code stand respect it. Screw the custies that can't read.

Sheila Flores-Crabb
Sheila Flores-Crabb

Lauren Butterfield weren't tall just talking about this place today with chris?

RonJohn63
RonJohn63

"We have the whole thing on camera if anyone wants to see it."

It appears at this point to be a real he said/she said incident,


Ms. Steinberg,


I don't think you know what "he said/she said" actually means.

Veronica Carr
Veronica Carr

Yes, I like dress codes. If I wanted to look casual or lazy I would stay at home and eat.

Stephen Zaruba
Stephen Zaruba

Love Da Marco! If the son had outgrown his dress shoes (and Mom was apparently unaware) that family's not going to church enough!

Alex Sansone
Alex Sansone

Private business gets to decide their own policies. Patronizing the business is a tacit agreement to the terms they set forth Don't like it? Don't eat there. You're not entitled to service

Mary Miller
Mary Miller

I'm just sick of ignorant people trying to blame others for the results of their actions.

Jay Zittrer
Jay Zittrer

Damn Mary Miller first Texas now the U.S. - your on some kind of a roll today. Moving to N.Y. then Canada? For the record, I am cool with dress code and the restaurant enforcing it.

klipsch
klipsch

Big deal. Marco Wiles has two casual sister restaurants within a mile of Da Marco. Use those shorts and sneakers for walking there and you'll be treated nicely and still get great food. In fact, some critics prefer Dolce Vita to Da Marco anyway, ever since Da Marco went flagship fancy.

Mary Miller
Mary Miller

It is the policy - certainly these folks had an idea that this would not be acceptable. Another ugly american incident, we are so easy to pick out overseas with our shorts and sneakers instead of trousers and shoes. The restaurant did what they had to do, good on them.

greenlist11
greenlist11

Its fine dining. What do you expect??? I've worked at fine dining establishments and it is the policy to let patrons know when they call about the dress code as well as soon as someone walks in if they are not dressed appropriately. It sounds like this lady has a bad case of entitlement and now her butt hurts and she wants to smear their name. Get over it...

pbf1985
pbf1985

I would be more PO'd over the fact that I had already spent $400 on wine than anything.  To me, this seems like a customer who made a simple mistake at fine dining establishment for a special occasion, so I think he should have just let it slide. The pompous attitude that Mr. Nikic took basically sealed the deal that I will NEVER go there -- be it with customers for business or for pleasure.  No place with this such arrogance will receive any of my money.  Houston is a casual city, the contrary argument is "it is nice to have atleast one or two places that still enforce dress codes" -- you can sort of look at this situation from both angles.  But again, I feel in this instance, letting it slide would've been such an easy choice.  Shame on you, Mr. Nikic, for your arrogance in ruining this man's birthday you OCD sociopath.

Joseph
Joseph

They had already ordered $400 worth of wine and the restaurant still threw them out? How stupid. I hope they go out of business.

dimilano
dimilano

If the mostly infantile, nascently stylish Americans knew how to dress themselves well and embraced a personal style beyond cargo shorts and skinny jeans, policies like this wouldn't be necessary. Look how adults in other developed countries comport themselves in public, then at Americans...it's a sad spectacle.

bryan9661
bryan9661

Im not attacking anyone or any place, Im just stating that for my modest dining budget, I prefer Liberty Kitchen, Backstreet Cafe or Brennans where you can enjoy an excellent meal with great wines for a reasonable price. I feel no need to be in the company of a group of people who spend more money on dinner than my mortgage and are afraid of bare legs and sandled feet. Again, there are too many options for great dining experiences to have to conform to someones or someplaces pompous attitude.

whiteyh23
whiteyh23

With so many to choose from, why is it necessary to attack one of the few places where I don't have to see exposed feet and legs ?

bryan9661
bryan9661

Houston has so many excellent dining options that would have loved to consume their dining dollars. I have never been to DaMarco and I suppose I never will. If I can get in the Palm, Trulucks, Papas Steakhouse with jeans and tennis shoes then thats good enough for me. $400 for wine , really, some people have more money than sense.

Nicki Stacy
Nicki Stacy

Nothing wrong with a dress code. Those who don't mind it will dine there and those who do mind can go elsewhere. I'm also ok with rules about kids. If you don't like it, eat somewhere else. And really, who needs to wear short (even khaki shorts) to a place requiring a jacket? You aren't out on a patio, you are inside with the a/c blasting.

Richard Cameron
Richard Cameron

Who the hell cares about this Hoity Toity, snooty restaurant and their wealthy patrons??

Peggy McClard Antiques
Peggy McClard Antiques

This is the restaurant that kicked a hearing impaired woman out because she had her service dog with her.....an illegal action under the Federal American with Disabilities Act. The report was that the manager on that night was incredibly rude to her party and had them escorted out by a cop (who was also breaking the law). The report ran in the Houston Chronicle and I never saw any response from Da Marco over that fiasco. Since that report I (myself a disabled person with a service dog) have just said "No" to any restaurant affiliated with Marco Wile. There are plenty of good restaurants in Houston without his restaurants.

Mark Newman
Mark Newman

A dress code? Do they know that this is 2013?

mikhastur
mikhastur

strict dress codes are fossils holdovers of definitely classist, but sometimes even racist, policies to keep The Other out of certain spaces. Frankly, with the prices at Da Marco's they should be happy for anyone who is willing to pay them. the outfit described sounds neat and clean and was once considered appropriate formal wear for male children. I am likely to avoid any place that I know is going to get into a snit about what I am wearing.

JCR1
JCR1

I personally prefer restaurants with a less stuffy dress code.  But Da Marco has every right to enforce their standards.  There are other places that family could have gone.

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

I can kind of see both sides of this but side with Da Marco. I'm guessing Da Marco felt that the Angus Young attire didn't quite cut it.  And it would only be a matter of time before Angus would break out the air guitar and sing "You...shook me all night long..."

Adrienne Byard
Adrienne Byard

In New York, poor dressers get relegated to the most hidden section of the restaurant.

CR250
CR250

Another whiny entitled diner.  Really, you think Jacket attire just means as long as you have a jacket on you can wear shorts and sneakers. Incredible.   

blakeywawa
blakeywawa

I think that the restaurant has every right to enforce their dress code. The idea that everything is now casual is a little much. Da Marco is one of the nicest restaurants in the nation! People should be aware that they are not dining at Cafe Express. Let's try and keep some kind of class around here folks. 

Daniel
Daniel

Gotta side with the restaurant on this one. Rules are rules. I am highly suspect of her account of the events as well.

european_screed
european_screed

do we know the son's age? if the boy is perhaps 12 or younger, a blazer, khaki shorts and black shoes might be interpreted as more acceptable than the same outfit on a teenager.

while I feel restaurants should enforce dress codes if they choose to, and patrons should respect them, sometimes a less rigid interpretation of the rules could do more good than harm

kierkegaard
kierkegaard

Going to church just once is usually enough for rational people.

klipsch
klipsch

@pbf1985 

Letting it slide just once or twice is no way to run a business; either you have a policy, and enforce it, or you don't. 

If you pick and choose when it's in effect, you really open yourself up to allegations of favortism, racism, whatever.

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

@Joseph 

If they order wine they should be able to violate the rules? I think Da Marco showed integrity when they enforced their rules despite losing potential business.

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

@whiteyh23 

So a woman can't were a dress and heels?  Because that would expose legs and feet.

texmex01
texmex01 topcommenter

What year is it?

kmaher23
kmaher23

@mikhastur Dress codes have been used at some clubs to keep out black men--while white douches waltz in dressed identically. 


The restaurant is up front about its dress code.  "Slob" is not a Protected Group. 


KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@european_screed I emailed the woman who sent us her story and asked about the son's age, but she never got back to me. The general manager referred to him as a child, though, so I'd guess he's fairly young.

pbf1985
pbf1985

@klipsch @pbf1985 Fair point, we are all entitled to our opinion on the subject matter, thanks  for yours; however, I disagree.

whiteyh23
whiteyh23

Depends. If they have hairy legs and disgusting hobbit feet, then I don't want to see that.

mikhastur
mikhastur

@Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah @mikhastur you did not understand my comment.  I didn't say that Da Marco's dress code was itself specifically racist.  I said that it was part of an outdated set of rules that were intended to keep certain people out that were based on things like racism and classism.  now, if you want examples of how dress codes are used in a racist manner, you can review some of the statements made in the recent testimony before the City Council in support of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance where many people told their stories about how specific bars and restaurants refused service to people of color citing their "dress codes" when white folks in similar outfits were served. and this happened in 2013, not 1960. One of those so testifying was an african american *judge* who was accompanied by a hispanic *state representative*. 

sgtbilko
sgtbilko

@mikhastur @Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah

We understand that you see it in a historically racist and classist contect. But we disagree. 

Here it was simply a business decision to separate his top-tier restaurant from his other two more casual joints.

Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah
Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah topcommenter

@nuh_uh @Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah @mikhastur Not here…. what is racist about their dress code? I didn't hear the people getting kicked out claim that it was racism...

whiteyh23
whiteyh23

Taliban ? If a woman can pull that look off, I'm all for it. But I've been seated across from ones that can not. At joe's crab shack I would almost expect it. Not at a fine dining establishment.

mikhastur
mikhastur

@sgtbilko @mikhastur @Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah you can disagree all you like.  that doesn't change the fact that this precisely the facts of the historical context. once again, I did not accuse Da Marco's of having a racist policy, just buying into an outdated notion of excluding The Other.  yes, you get to have your own opinions, but you don't get to have your own "facts."

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