Twerking, is not what’s for dinner at TRUE Kocktails + Kitchen, playlist, notwithstanding! Or not…when a customer at TRUE Kocktails + Kitchen entertained herself by dancing suggestively on the furniture, the owner asked her to stop twice before blowing up in a now viral clip. In the clip, the owner Kevin Kelley, can be seen and heard yelling in the crowded Dallas restaurant about the desired quality and atmosphere of his upscale restaurant. Since the clip hit the web, there has been much conversation about whether or not Kelley was right to respond that way, regardless of his previous attempts to quell the distasteful situation.
Young ladies were allegedly twerking in the dining room and one went so far as to dance on the furniture, how is that acceptable? It’s a known fact that music can and will make you lose control occasionally (according to Missy Elliot), but this is inexcusable. Let’s be clear while we’re at it, twerking should have never escaped the strip club. Somehow, it has seeped past the respectability threshold and is an everyday part of human expression. Unfortunately.
It should go without saying but, twerking and fine dining don’t mix! Initially, I was mad about the entire situation. Why would any upscale restaurant even include ratchet songs on its playlist? Plus, why use a DJ when you can use Muzak (now Mood Media) any streaming service with accompanying licenses or pay live musicians to play as customers dine in? The answer came in the form of a memory and I was reminded of one of my favorite movies, B.A.P.S (Black American Princesses). In the film, two unsuspecting women are brought in on a ruse to steal a wealthy man’s (Mr. Blakemore played by Martin Landau) fortune under the guise that they are the granddaughters of a long lost love. What the world saw as two “ghetto” women encroaching the upscale lifestyle was actually the introduction of black upscale to the masses. In short, we do upscale differently. This doesn’t dismiss the black polo clubs, gold resorts, country clubs, or swanky private societies enjoy exclusively by wealthy blacks, nor should it dismiss the everyday attempts by blacks to enjoy the finer things in life.
Back to B.A.P.S.
Nisi (Halle Berry) and Mickey (Natalie Deselle-Reid) never forgot their dreams and once they received their inheritance from Mr. Blakemore, they opened up Lily’z, a restaurant and hair salon. Their boyfriends also opened their page a cab service and hosted their fleet outside the restaurant. There are way too many gut busting moments to recount (the airplane ride, for starters), but I have always needed help off the floor when watching this particular scene. In it, AJ Johnson who plays Mickey’s boyfriend James laments that he can’t give her the finer things in life, though she is deserving of them.
…Would you mind lowering your hair…?!?
‘We Deserve Nice Stuff, Too!’
This line “…and, why you gotta wear your Sunday clothes on Wednesday?” has always brought me to tears from laughter, but I think it’s the prevailing idea for many black consumers and entrepreneurs who want their slice of the pie and corresponding taste of the good life. For centuries, black people have contributed to upscale culture in their own way. Many times this was done as luxury adjacent consumers (personal shoppers and assistants), without an outlet for black eccentricity and excellence.
Let’s explore the phenomenon of Dapper Dan of Harlem, New York. He created iconic fashion looks with international luxury brands. The problem is, he was never welcomed into the fashion houses, though his designs were world class. Only recently, have brands embraced the years of notoriety freely gifted their brands by Dapper Dan and New York black fashion culture. This may also help explain the DJ at a supposed upscale restaurant.
In the wake of the fallout, people and even the owner have suggested that diners patronize other restaurants with a dining room that doubles as an occasional dance floor. But what about the people who want lambchops, cocktails and a playlist that resembles their car ride to work, their college years, or even their workout playlist without the ratchet? Is there a limit to the acceptable blackness at even black owned fine dining establishments?
TRUE Kitchen + Kocktails has made a name for itself as a fine dining establishment with its food and drink menu and reservation waitlist. TRUE rivals its fine dining counterparts and boasts inclusion of black culture through and through, but some elements of luxury are non-negotiable and twerking is at the top of the list. I’m not talking about shuffling your way out the door when the steak house plays Earth Wind & Fire as you wait for your coat or while you wait for the valet to you’re your car forward. Who said black people don’t know upscale living?
You definitely need to get out more if you think that element of high society hasn’t made its way into the black community. In many ways, black people perfected luxury consumerism and the pretentiousness that keeps luxury brands in the black. Just a few weeks ago, Cardi B used the ever popular Birkin bag to address racism and the double standards aimed at the hip hop community and black people, at large. Hip Hop and luxury culture go hand in hand. A single mention in a rap song has proven over and over the power to make international luxury brands household names with listeners.
Don’t be surprised that these songs have made it onto the playlist at TRUE Kocktails + Kitchen and diners sing their favorite part or can’t quite keep still. Let’s face it, black upscale at times looks a little different than its white counterparts and that’s the ‘truth’ on that! It really isn’t controversial that the owner of a upscale restaurant scolded customers for besmirching his fine dining establishment, but it’s news! Now, let’s look at a few takeaways from the avalanche of publicity at TRUE.
- Don’t confuse ambience for approval. The DJ’s song choice was not actual encouragement for you to throw that, yours or anyone else’s actual *** in a circle. Let’s talk about the song choice, too…how did that song make it onto the playlist, anyway? It’s crass and if you’re a fine dining establishment as you assert yourself to be, nothing like it should be part of the ambience of the restaurant.
- Either we’re going to be high class or not! In fact, Magic City (world famous strip club in Atlanta) is as widely known for legs and thighs as it is for its kitchen’s wings! There’s a fine line between good or even gourmet cuisine in a club setting. TRUE doesn’t purport itself as a club, despite a playlist that may suggest otherwise.
- Act like you got some home training…famous words from parents or last words for kids who didn’t once they entered the store of other public place. Have we devolved that much as a society that paying customers would resort to doing the most despicable dance in a public place, a restaurant, no less? Sadly, the answer is yes. If TRUE Kocktails + Kitchen wants to set itself apart from that segment of that culture, they must get real about its expectation of itself and its consumer base.
Lastly, none of us want our businesses to fail because of clientele. When you have a product that people love, it’s easy to think their patronage comes with a level of conformity. But in this case, we see how untrue that is. It’s true that Mr. Kelley asked them not to gyrate on the furniture more than once before his now viral tirade, but could he have handled it better? Yes. Will he if it happens again? Of course he will. We also hope that he now has a process or enforces the one in place to handle unruly customers, whether it’s to solve check disputes, drunk or unruly customers or other unforeseen circumstances. While being ‘true’ to himself and his establishment, there is an expectation that this teachable moment works itself out for both consumer and restauranteur.