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Unacceptable Behavior

Kung Fu Saloon in Dallas slammed by allegations of racist policies

Kung Fu Saloon in Dallas
Kung Fu Saloon bills itself as a casual arcade bar. Kung Fu Saloon/Facebook
DeAndre Upshaw
DeAndre Upshaw, center, was told his footwear was unacceptable for Kung Fu Saloon. Courtesy Photo
Skeeball at Kung Fu Saloon in Dallas
Bar games draw a young crowd to Kung Fu Saloon in Uptown. Courtesy of Kung Fu Saloon

Less than a year after the Kung Fu Saloon in Austin was accused of implementing racist policies, the arcade bar is once again under fire — this time in Dallas.

When DeAndre Upshaw was first denied entry to Kung Fu Saloon in Uptown Dallas on Sunday afternoon, he thought the bouncer was just making a joke. "I've been going to bars all my adult life, and I've never heard of a policy against high-top shoes," says Upshaw, a 26-year-old black man.

But the bouncer at the casual arcade bar was serious. Upshaw says he was told his high-top Converse sneakers were "against the dress code." This statement was especially puzzling, because several members of Upshaw's party were wearing similar shoes. The only difference? They were white. 

"This is setting yourself up for failure when you have a dress code that only applies to a subset of society," Upshaw says. The issue becomes even murkier considering the dress code isn't publicly posted. "They are not having issues. They are just trying to keep out people of color."

 ​​"It's pretty funny when we live in a society where being called racist is the thing we are upset about and not the policies that are discriminating," DeAndre Upshaw says.

Upshaw is a marketing professional with thousands of contacts on social media, including this reporter. When he posted his account of the incident on Facebook, it generated nearly 100 comments, several of which detailed similar reports of racist dress code enforcement. The incident has even spawned its own hashtag, #NoKungFuDallas.

Calls and emails requesting comment from Kung Fu Saloon were not immediately returned. Upshaw says after he was turned away, he left a message about the incident with the general manager, who called him back and was upset about the allegations of racism.

"It's pretty funny when we live in a society where being called racist is the thing we are upset about and not the policies that are discriminating," Upshaw says.

The May 18 incident is far from the first allegation of racist door policies at Kung Fu Saloon, which also operates here in Austin and Houston. Last summer, an African-American man reported that he was denied entry to the arcade bar in Austin because he was wearing basketball shorts. His white friend who was clad in similar attire was allowed inside.

Online reviews of Kung Fu Saloon reveal numerous allegations of selective dress code enforcement, including a Dallas man who was barred from entry due to wearing loafers without socks in May 2013.

Upshaw says he tried to be reasonable about the ever-evolving dress code, but it was clear he wasn't going to be allowed in. "It was my friend's birthday," he says. "I was trying to figure out a way to make it work."

He says the general manager offered to let his group into Kung Fu Saloon on another night, but it was too little too late for Upshaw: "I'm not coming back — ever," he says.

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