It's not only age that keeps some students from entering downtown Athens bars. According to Jackson Stout, general manager of The Bury, lack of adherence to the bar's dress code can be grounds for bouncers to refuse patrons.
Stout said most downtown Athens bars have dress codes, and they are recommended.
“When you file your insurance, you are given a list of things that would be good to have on your dress code,” he said.
The code exists to prevent people from sneaking things such as weapons into bars, said Kenny Powers, general managers at Flanagan’s.
“We ban excessively baggy clothing and backpacks for that purpose,” he said.
But Jared Alexander, an African American student from Decatur, said in addition to limiting dangerous situations, the dress codes also limit a certain group of students.
“I understand that all of these [bars] are private institutions and they have the right to choose how they want their patrons to dress,” said Alexander, a senior marketing major. “But I think my issues is more the fact that these dress codes are not consistent and it is certainly, I feel, targeted towards a particular demographic.”
While the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prevents public-sector businesses from refusing service on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion or natural origin, private businesses can refuse customers for being unreasonably rowdy, lacking adequate personal hygiene or creating safety concerns.
"As private businesses, bars have the right to refuse service to anyone, so the owner can specifically say that he does not want a certain clientele," Stout said. "Luckily our owner is not like that, so we just make sure that everyone is legal and their I.D. is within date and that they follow the dress code."
Alexander said for that reason, he always makes conscious apparel choices before a night downtown.
“I have a Terry sweatshirt that I wear when I go downtown, that way they can identify me as a UGA student or at least help to identify me as a UGA student,” he said.
But he can't always prevent trouble.
On one particular night Alexander recalled, a bouncer at an undisclosed bar denied him access for wearing a beanie cap. Even after exiting the line and giving his hat to a friend, he was again denied.
“I took off my hat and it wasn’t even in my hands. I wasn’t carrying it just to put it back on once I get inside. It didn’t make sense,” he said.
Though he has always been able to enter at least one bar during a night downtown, Alexander said there are certain bars he feels he needs to be on guard.
Bars also refuse entry to patrons when a private party is taking place — an explanation Alexander has also been given when he feels the bar is hiding discriminatory policies.
“I didn’t understand because I saw [the bouncer] let the guys in before me,” he said. “I knew that they were not with the private party; they were with me.”
Alexander said that he will continue to go downtown despite the discrimination he has felt at particular bars, because he wants to push the envelope and show them that they won’t win.
“Yes, [bar dress codes] are racist and discriminatory, but still you shouldn’t let them get in the way of your fun. I’m wearing the clothes and meeting all the guidelines. I’m over 21, and I am still not being let in, “ Alexander said. “Why is that?”