DOWNTOWN — A River North restaurant and bar is facing the potential loss of its liquor license — and possible closure — while fending off complaints that its new, lengthy dress code is "racist."
The Bottled Blonde, 504 N. Wells St., has been criticized by neighbors for unruly patrons spilling out into the neighborhood and went through disciplinary hearings at City Hall last year. Now the city is trying to possibly revoke the bar's liquor license, with a hearing set for Tuesday.
The city alleges the Bottled Blonde sold alcohol as its primary activity but didn't have a tavern license, failed to keep patrons trying to get into the restaurant in a single line of no more than 25 people, and didn't monitor its exterior to reduce noise, littering and public intoxication, among other things.
If those charges are sustained, the Bottled Blonde could be fined or have its licenses suspended or revoked, a city spokesman said.
The restaurant and bar, which has a club-like atmosphere at night, has been investigated by the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection several times, said Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd). The Bottled Blonde has "generated hundreds of complaints" from people in the neighborhood since it opened, he said.
"Bottled Blonde has not been a responsible restaurant operator in River North since the day they opened and remains a chronic source of quality-of-life complaints from my constituents," Reilly said.
This River North "bar" (club, really) operates on a RESTAURANT license. See all the food being served in this photo? pic.twitter.com/2sNHkwjzPf— Brendan Reilly (@AldReilly) June 1, 2017
The restaurant most recently came under fire this week after its new dress code went viral online. The lengthy dress code bans patrons from wearing "obnoxious" prints, "odd-colored" pants, Jordans, men's jewelry and other items. Reilly has long been skeptical of the business, which he says clearly operates as a club, claiming to be primarily a restaurant:
How many "restaurants" offer tableside bottles of vodka & need to post a "dress code" longer than the Magna Carta? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/SlZGuRtt0Z— Brendan Reilly (@AldReilly) June 1, 2017
Scroll down for the full dress code
People flooded Bottled Blonde's social media pages, leaving it poor Yelp reviews and taking to Facebook and Instagram to slam the policy and restaurant. Many said the policy was "racist" and not fairly applied, pointing to photos from the restaurant's Facebook that show servers in lingerie or leotards and patrons — many, though not all, white — wearing items that are supposedly banned in the dress code.
One poster described the rules as "the new Jim Crow."
Representatives of the Bottled Blonde have not responded to repeated requests for comment. The restaurant removed posts criticizing its dress code policy from Facebook. At the bar Thursday afternoon, a manager who only identified himself as Rich declined to comment on the dress code or the upcoming hearings.
The deleterious impact/public nuisance hearings typically provide a platform for community members to voice their complaints to the city's Department of Business & Consumer Affairs, and can even lead to a business losing its liquor or business license if conditions don't improve.
Photos from Bottled Blonde show people wearing items that were apparently banned in their controversial new dress code. The photos were posted May 23. [Facebook/Bottled Blonde]
The full dress code:
• Bottled Blonde will maintain a classy atmosphere and reserves the right to refuse service to anyone. A high standard of dress is required at all times. Dress code is on a case-by-case basis, and is at the sole discretion of the Door Staff. In all instances, the Door Staff's decision is final. If denied entry, changing your appearance will not change the decision. The following lists are guidelines and are subject to change at any time without notice.
• No bad attitude or behavior
• No excessively baggie, sagging, ripped, dirty, frayed, overly flashy or bright clothing
• No matching colors of the shoes, hat and/or shirt
• No Hawaiian, tie dye, floral, skull prints or anything else obnoxious
A Yelp review criticizing the Bottled Blonde. [Yelp]
• No gang attire (leather cuts, colors or insignia) and no camouflage
• No embellishments or statement jackets, shirts, beanies or hats
• No rude, vulgar or offensive clothing
• No overly large purses or bags. Backpacks must be coat checked if available
• No skateboards, hoverboards or animals
• No plain white tees, long tees, denim, flannel (not even around one's waist) or zippers on shirts
The Bottled Blonde's social media accounts, including Instagram, have been flooded by comments criticizing its dress code as "racist." [Instagram]
• No cut-off shirts, deep V-necks, undershirts or mesh shirts. Tank tops before 6 p.m. only
• No sports jerseys (except during games and of the appropriate team)
• No Tapout, Ed Hardy, Affliction or MMA brands
• No shearling/fur, leather, jean jackets, short-sleeve hoodies or overly long hoodies
• No puffer/quilted jackets or vests and no novelty sweaters
• No hoodies underneath shirts or jackets
• No overalls, cargo, bleached/stone/acid-washed, odd-colored or leather pants
• No joggers, manpris, drop crotch pants or pants with numerous zippers
• No athletic wear, like Under Armour, sweats, gym shoes and etc.
• No compression pants underneath shorts or rolled-up jeans
• No jean shorts, and other shorts must be no longer than 1 inch past your knees
• No Jordans, Nike Air Max or Air Force [shoes]
• No high tops, high socks or athletic sneakers (Chucks and Vans are allowed)
• Shoes are required at all times (no sandals after 8 p.m.)
• Dress boots must be fully laced up (no work boots)
• Hats must be worn at all times (no stickers or tags)
• No brimless headgear
• No male jewelry (chains are not allowed in the establishment at all)
• No visible tattoos on neck, face or hands
Read the charges: