A Baltimore-Based Restaurant Group That’s Expanding to DC Is Under Fire for Its Strict (Some Say Discriminatory) Dress Codes

Atlas Restaurant Group will open two venues in DC's Moxy hotel—each with rules about what to wear.

The Moxy hotel will have two hospitality venues from Atlas Restaurant Group. Rendering courtesy of the Moxy.

No jerseys. No work or construction boots. No beanies. No “excessively baggy clothing” or shorts below the knee. These are just a few of the many dress code rules that Baltimoreans are calling out as racist and discriminatory at new Fells Point restaurant the Choptank. A similar set of guidelines could be applied in DC when Atlas Restaurant Group opens two yet-to-be-named concepts in the Moxy DC hotel downtown.

The Baltimore-based hospitality group, founded by former professional lacrosse player Alex Smith, runs over a dozen venues in Maryland, Florida, and Texas, including the Inner Harbor’s luxe Azumi restaurant and Bygone rooftop at the Four Seasons hotel. The Choptank is their latest, a “classic fish and crab house” in the newly renovated Broadway Market. The restaurant came under fire on Twitter after Elle senior staff writer and Baltimore native R. Eric Thomas “took issue with the blatantly discriminatory dress code.” Thomas says he was then blocked (and later, unblocked) by the Choptank.

The Choptank issued an explanation via Twitter that they were simply following the Fells Point herd: implementing “the dress code standard that it used by several other properties in the area including Barcocina, Bond Street Social Moby’s and the Horse You Came In On.” While other Atlas Restaurant Group venues have similarly strict dress codes displayed in detail on their websites, including Ouzo Bay and Tagliata, none of the businesses they named do the same. Reached by phone, a hostess at Barcocina said the Mexican restaurant doesn’t have a dress code. The Horse You Came In On does, but co-owner Eric Mathias declined to comment on specific rules.

Atlas Restaurant Group’s two upcoming DC venues include a rooftop bar at Moxy and a restaurant in the Victorian-era building and courtyard adjoining the hotel. Both were slated to open this past spring, but Atlas spokesman Joe Sweeney says construction delays at the property have delayed the project. Names and logos are expected to be released within the month. As for dress codes?

“DC properties will have dress codes as well,” says Sweeney, not elaborating further.

Washingtonian has reached out to Moxy spokespersons for comment and will continue to update this story.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.