Store owners' rules upset some customers

♏*PHOENIX*♏ - posted on 04/09/2011 ( 51 moms have responded )

4,455

6

379

Okay, so I wear WHOLE SHIRTS, so this doesnt bother me, but it seems it does others, would this be an upset to you?

here is the link so you can see the pic http://www.wwltv.com/outbound-feeds/soci...

HOUMA — Arthur and Linda Eschete stand by their sign.


It’s the one that says “Ladies must have A WHOLE SHIRT on,” followed by rules against bare feet, alcohol, smoking and profanity, planted in front of the Sea-Go seafood store on Grand Caillou Road. And if some customers are offended by the sign, feel it discriminates against women or balk at orders to leave if the Eschetes find their clothing too skimpy, the couple is convinced that enough of their regular clientele support the sign to make it worthwhile.

“These are my principles and my beliefs,” Arthur Eschete said. “I appreciate my good customers and if people don’t feel they can adhere to my dress code there are other places to go. It is nothing personal. ... We had to implement a dress code.”

Some women who are offended by the sign or were shown the door during past visits to Sea-Go because of attire deemed improper are taking it personally, however.

“I felt like he was trying to make me into something I am not. If I am going out to a club I will dress differently. I am picking up crawfish for my family and I am told I can’t go in because of my shirt. I don’t have a tank top, I have a sleeveless shirt showing no cleavage. It is not improper at all,” said Missy McElroy, 45, a homemaker, grandmother and mother of four who lives near Coteau Road.

About a year and a half ago, McElroy stopped at Sea-Go for the 10-pound special on crawfish. The Eschetes, she said, barred her from entering and berated her. The memory still stings, she said. “I used to go there all the time. I never bought my crawfish anywhere else until after that day.”

Christa Falgout, a 31-year-old nursing student and mother of two small children, still smarts from her encounter at Sea-Go even though it was nearly two years ago.

“I was mortified,” she said. “I had my two children with me and I was wearing a halter top. Maybe some Capri pants. I got out of my car and went in there and they started yelling at me, they accused me of looking like a ‘whore.’ I had my kids with me. They said they refused to serve me and these people were screaming at me. I was not dressed like a hoochie. I wore that outfit to church, at St. Eloi.”

Falgout doesn’t remember seeing a sign outside.

The Eschetes’ new sign is easily readable and prominently displayed. Some say it violates the law. Louisiana law says it is discriminatory for a person to “deny an individual the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of a place of public accommodation ... on the grounds of race, creed, color, religion, sex, age, disability or national origin.”

A store is a place of public accommodation, according to law. A discriminatory practice means “any direct or indirect act or practice of exclusion, distinction, restriction, segregation, limitation, refusal, denial, or any other act or practice of differentiation or preference in the treatment of a person or persons because of race, creed, color, religion, sex, age, disability, or national origin.”

Allegations that the law has been violated are handled by the Louisiana Commission on Human Rights, a board appointed by the governor. Penalties for violations are not clear, however.

“It is appalling that any business in the 21st century would harass or deny women access for any reason at all, much less for an arbitrary dress code that isn’t fairly applied to males as well,” said Charlotte Klasson, president of the National Organization for Women’s Louisiana chapter. “While it is their right as a private operation, it is amazing that anyone would think it benefits their relationship in the Houma community,” Klasson added. “This treatment of women, who are not breaking any laws, demonstrates that misogyny is alive and well and part of our local area.”

Advocates for women say the gender-specific reference in the sign, with no corresponding caveat for men, nor a gender neutral ‘no shoes, no shirt, no service,’ sets a discriminatory tone, is intimidating and should not be allowed.

Eschete said there is no discriminatory intent, and that he is equally harsh on men who come into his business attired, in his estimation, inappropriately.

“This is not a woman thing,” he insisted, explaining that for men or women his rule of thumb on halter or tank-tops is that anything more narrow than two inches is unacceptable for patrons. Eschete said he is aware the sign could be construed as discriminatory, and that Louisiana has a gender provision in its laws.

“I checked with my lawyer and he said the only thing they could do is write a letter, the same thing the Better Business Bureau could do,” he said. To date, no complaint is known to have been filed with the Human Rights Commission.

“I would challenge it,” Eschete said, adding that his rules aren’t based on religion.

Eschete, who has been at the Grand Caillou location for 18 years, said he started the dress code years ago, when a group of teen boys and girls showed up wearing swimsuits and drinking.

The youths verbally attacked the couple, who called the police because of the underage drinking, Eschete said. Other insults from improperly dressed people followed.

One day, an employee, Eschete said, was accused of ogling a scantily clad woman and that was the end of it.

“I got tired of dealing with it and said I am going to put a dress code, that women must have a whole shirt,” said Eschete, who will also refuse service to men “with pants to their knees” and people in hoods. “The majority of my customers love it,” Eschete said. “Many say ‘Why should I come in here and see a woman or some guy who barely has any clothes on and make me uncomfortable and my wife uncomfortable?’ ”

Eschete acknowledges that he can be brusque, particularly when the dress code is concerned.

“Believe me, my wife has got more patience with people than I do. I can be very rude, I will say it,” he said.

Houma attorney Jerri Smitko said she had difficulty understanding the dress code, and the sign in particular.

“How about a sun dress, spaghetti straps, as opposed to a halter top? What about a woman who just left the gym from working out and she has a tank top and decides she wants some crawfish to take home right now? If they choose to prohibit clientele without whole shirts it should apply to men and women equally. The sign doesn’t do that, ” she said.

Eschete remains firm.

“There is no law requiring that they go to Sea-Go Seafood,” he said. “I don’t go out in the street and drag them in here. There are many seafood places in this town. Make me adhere to what it is you want to do? I just don’t see the sense of it.”

If you see this, leave this form field blank.
Powered by RESPECT not THUMPS

51 Comments

View replies by

Join Circle of Moms

Sign up for Circle of Moms and be a part of this community! Membership is just one click away.

Join Circle of Moms