Kung Fu Saloon in Dallas Hit With Repeated Claims of Denying Black Patrons Entry

In DeAndré Upshaw's group of friends, he was the only one denied at Kung Fu Saloon. He wore blue Converse sneakers, center left. His female friend, center right, was also wearing Converse shoes and was admitted in.

Dallas resident DeAndré Upshaw launched a social media campaign against Kung Fu Saloon, a popular Uptown Dallas bar with the self-imposed tagline “kickin’ butt and takin’ shots.” Upshaw says the bouncer refused him entry on Sunday because he was wearing Converse high-top shoes, but Upshaw believes he wasn’t let in because he’s black.


Backed by social media, Upshaw has posted his story to Facebook and Twitter. SMU students joined in bystarting promoting the hashtag #NoKungFuDallas. [UPDATE: The hashtag's creator is Dallas resident Tiffani Robinson. She shared it with students from a handful of universities in Texas.]

Upshaw believes the bouncers change the dress code as they wish, giving them the ability to turn people away inconsistently. Kung Fu’s dress code is not posted anywhere, confirms spokeswoman Paula Biehler, though in a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the bar has now established clear dress code rules. See them below.

Dallas city code 31-3 states that dress code rules must be posted “in writing in a conspicuous, clearly visible location outside each public entrance.”

Upshaw says eight other black people were denied access on Sunday night for varying dress code reasons.

One couple was told no “because the guy was wearing shorts,” Upshaw says. “I could see on the patio that everyone was wearing shorts, because it was 85 degrees.”

In a statement issued by the bar, the spokeswoman said they will investigate Sunday’s incident and take disciplinary action if they find the event was racially motivated. “Kung Fu Saloon is home to one of the most diverse crowds in the Dallas bar scene,” the statement reads in part. “It is not the policy of Kung Fu Saloon to deny any customer entry based on race or ethnicity.”

Managers at the bar did not return repeated requests for comment. The spokeswoman declined to identify the bouncer and would not give a time frame for when Kung Fu will decide if it should take disciplinary action.

Upshaw and his friends went to “six or seven different bars” near Kung Fu after being turned away. Upshaw was not denied access at the other bars, he says.

Bouncers at Kung Fu Saloons in Austin and Houston have been accused of turning away minorities. In August 2013, one man told the Fox station in Austin he was refused entry because he looked “ghetto.” Another black man says he was kept out of Kung Fu in Houston because of the sneakers he was wearing.

Upshaw says he’ll find a new neighborhood to patronize. “I’m not going to spend my time in Uptown anymore,” he says. “Maybe that’s what they want. I don’t know.”

[UPDATE at 4:45 p.m. May 20: Kung Fu Saloon issued a statement via email. Here it is, in full:

"As previously acknowledged, management of Kung Fu Saloon was made aware of a claim that an employee of the company turned away a customer trying to gain entrance to the bar that was wearing unacceptable attire; of which the customer claims was racially motivated.

"Upon learning of the situation, the manager on duty immediately established contact with the customer, and invited them back in order to hear what had happened in an effort to remedy the situation. The customer refused to return, stated the previously mentioned claims, and the incident was unable to be resolved.

"As many of those that have visited us in the past will attest, Kung Fu Saloon is home to a diverse crowd of patrons of all races, ethnicities, genders, and religions. This is a culture that we value, and is something we have taken great pride in since creating the concept, and it is worth restating that it is not the policy of Kung Fu Saloon to deny any customer entry based upon race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or any other status.

"Management has determined that the dress code has caused misunderstanding, and therefore may be found below. We encourage you to join us to see for yourself how diverse our crowd is, and thank you for your patronage.

"Dress Code: Kung Fu Saloon, employees, and patrons are to present themselves in an appropriate manner which is conducive to a productive, safe and fun environment. Administration has the final authority about dress code compliance. In accordance with Kung Fu policies, employees and patrons may not wear:

• "Improperly fit clothing; baggy pants, overly tight clothes, or clothes that expose
body parts or undergarments.
• Boxer shorts, sweat pants, or athletic shorts
• Undergarments, pajamas or other clothing not designed to be worn as an outer
• Gang associated clothing or colors
• Emblems or writings that are obscene or that may reasonably be expected to
cause a disruption of or interfere with normal operations
• Clothing advertising, condoning, depicting, or promoting a controlled substance, violence, or displaying vulgar or suggestive language
• Clothing or items that promote discrimination or intolerance of any group based
on race, religion or sexual orientation
• Accessories, which are weapon-like, such as metal-studded collars and arm/wristbands
• Any item with graffiti including of backpacks and other items on the personage"]