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Atlanta sushi restaurant owner apologizes after Black couple denied service over sneakers

  | USA TODAY

An Atlanta sushi restaurant owner has apologized after a Black couple said they were discriminated against when they were escorted out of the establishment for a dress-code violation.

Kaylan Colbert, an attorney, said she and her husband made a reservation for a birthday dinner at Umi but when they arrived, staff refused to serve them because her husband was wearing sneakers.

At some point, Colbert starts recording the at times heated discussion in a video which now has more than 90,000 views on Instagram and was shared on Twitter by nationally recognized civil rights lawyer Ben Crump. Her husband, who is wearing white Nike Air Force 1 shoes and is identified only as Steve in the video, points out to the staff that another patron sitting at the bar is wearing Adidas sneakers as the managers try to move the conversation outside.

“This is pure racism, she has on Adidas,” her husband says in the video.

“I get where you’re coming from,” a staff member responds. “Please we’re all minorities here.”

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Warning: This video contains disturbing language.

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A post shared by Kaylan Colbert ATTORNEY (@thegeorgialawyer) on Oct 28, 2020 at 11:28am PDT

Colbert told FOX 5 that the couple had been there multiple times during the coronavirus pandemic and that her husband had worn gym shoes without incident. The couple and the staff continue the conversation outside where restaurant owner Farshid Arshid gets involved just as he’s leaving for the day.

Arshid and Colbert’s husband get into a heated debate and at one point have to be physically separated by staff.

“He’s going to go to jail tonight,” Arshid says. “I’m not letting Air Force 1s in my establishment.”

A security guard eventually breaks up the two groups shortly before the recording ends.

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Arshid, who is Iranian, told USA TODAY that he regrets how the situation was handled but that it was an “operational, not racial” shortcoming. 

“We absolutely mishandled it,” Arshid said. “I’m ashamed of that … we should’ve managed the situation much better.”

Arshid said that when a reservation is made the dress code is communicated in at least three ways, on Open Table, by a staff member when the reservation is confirmed by phone and on a plaque in the restaurant.

He said he doesn’t know what kind of shoes the other customer was wearing, but that it’s possible the hostess did not see her shoes because she was seated at the bar.

“We have a policy, we ask people to adhere to it,” he said. “We don’t look at your shoes when you come in.”

Arshid said he called Colbert 30 minutes after the incident to apologize and invite them back to the restaurant. He said he has stayed in contact with the couple since the incident and has tried to find a way to remedy the situation.

Colbert said in an Instagram post that she has not accepted his apology. USA TODAY has reached out to Colbert for comment.

Follow N’dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg

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