JERSEY CITY — Last weekend, CJ Pace and a friend visited The Ashford Restaurant in Jersey City, expecting to sit inside.
That is not what happened.
“When we walked up to the door — I had on sweatpants — [a restaurant staffer] immediately told us that we couldn’t go inside, but we could gladly sit outside for outdoor dining, because of the dress code,” said Pace. “So me in my head, I’m like ‘okay, this is just a dress code,’ I’ll follow the rules.”
But their outdoor dining experience went south when they noticed a group of white diners, also dressed in sweatpants, shorts, and wearing hats walk right in.
“So in my mind, I’m like ‘they’re probably gonna get turned away, just like we did.’ And that didn’t happen,” said Pace.
Pace says he approached the head of security to point out what appeared to be a double standard.
“He says, ‘I hope you don’t think that you guys are gonna’ get in just because you brought this up to me.’ I was embarrassed and I was like, okay, this is what they do here. Immediately, the dress code applies to certain people,” Pace added.
When asked if he thinks race played a role in his inability to get inside and eat, Pace responded, “Absolutely.”
Pace adds that the Ashford’s management did not offer an apology to them in person and there isn’t one in the restaurant’s short statement posted to Instagram.
“The Ashford and Six26 has a multi-racial ownership group, employs a multi-racial team, and services a multi-racial community,” the statement said. “We are anti-racist. We will take action internally to ensure every team member meets this standard every day.”
Jersey City Councilman James Solomon says the Ashford can do better.
“Every company in the city should meet the extremely low bar of not engaging in racist and discriminatory actions,” Solomon said. “First, there was not apology to the people involve that were discriminated against and what this community wants and deserves is the specific, detailed actions — the actions it’s going to take to ensure this never happens again.”
Since posting his now viral video encounter at the Ashford, several other people have come forward and shared with Pace their own experiences with the restaurant’s seemingly racist, discriminatory admission policies.
“My story is not the only one,” he added. “So at this point, they need to publicly take accountability for not just my situation but for all situations that are coming to light right now.”
This is not the first time the Ashford is in the hotseat for allegedly discriminatory tactics. Two years ago, the restaurant was heavily criticized for a dress code policy to that was seen as targeting people of color. Management denied being racist then, as it is doing now.