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Buckhead restaurant manager responds after claims of racism by Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins

The disagreement took place at Le Bilboquet, a French bistro in the The Shops Buckhead Atlanta.

ATLANTA — Atlanta Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins says he was turned away from a Buckhead restaurant over the color of his skin on Saturday.

It happened at Le Bilboquet, a French bistro in The Shops Buckhead Atlanta.

"In my many years in the world, I’ve eaten at some of the greatest restaurants in the world, but never have I felt prejudice or been turned away because of the color of my skin, until today," he wrote on Twitter.

The restaurant claims he was turned away because of the way he was dressed. In a statement on Twitter late Saturday, they said their policy prohibits "athletic clothing."

"We do our best to accommodate all of our guests. We have a 'business casual' dress code which includes jeans & sneakers but prohibits athletic clothing including sweat pants & tops. The definition of “casual” is ever evolving, we strive to maintain our policy requirements daily," the restaurant said in a Tweet that has since been removed.. 

Responses to the statement from the restaurant showed apparent photos of other guests wearing athletic attire and said it was not the first instance this happened. 

The Hall of Famer said on Twitter that when he first got to the restaurant, they told him there were no tables. They then told him he was "not dressed fashionably enough."

"I guess if there were no tables, then why the follow up comment?," Wilkins tweeted.

He said if they just told him there were no tables, he'd be fine with that, "But they looked me up and down before that and then said that and to add insult, talked about how my clothes were not appropriate when I was wearing designer casual pants and a shirt," he wrote.

The restaurant took to Twitter again on Sunday morning saying that the dress code policy is not meant to offend anyone and that they welcome an open dialogue with Wilkins. They said it was not their intention to make him feel unwanted.

"Our dress code policy is not meant to offend anyone but rather provide our guests with an acceptable clothing guide. We apologize for the confusion it may have caused. Our upscale dining experience and our brand's culture is made up of multiple elements which includes our music, our food and our patrons' attire. We are very sorry that our attempt to maintain consistency in our dress code policy caused Mr. Wilkins to feel unwanted in our restaurant as that was not our intention and would welcome an open dialogue with him," the statement read.

"We do not, nor have we ever rejected someone based on their skin color. We are proud of our multicultural workforce at patronage," they went on to say. 

The restaurant, again, removed this statement and released a new one.

"We want to apologize to Mr. Wilkins for his experience at our restaurant and also for any confusion our dress code may have caused," the new statement said. "We in no way intended for him to feel unwanted, and welcome an open dialogue with him. Our upscale dining experience and our brand's culture is made up of multiple elements, which include our music, our food and our patrons' attire. We continue to strive to manifest our dining experience in a way that is exciting and most importantly, inclusive."

The restaurant also said in an earlier statement that due to a staff shortage, they are not able to seat as many tables in the restaurant. 

On Sunday, the restaurant's manager also spoke to 11Alive regarding the incident.

"We never want anyone to feel, in this community, discriminated against because of anything, especially, the color of their skin," General Manager Mark Hoefer said. "Especially someone who is a pillar of this community like Mr. Wilkins."

Hoefer told 11Alive the restaurant's dress code has been in place since May 2020 and was crafted with customers in mind to enhance their experience.

"We're pretty comfortable in our minimum standard which is no athletic wear, nothing overly revealing," he said.

He added that Wilkins was wearing black track pants when he was denied service. However, some online reviews claim the restaurant has been inconsistent in enforcing the dress code. Hoeffer said he and his team work hard to maintain consistency with it. Hoefer says he hopes to have a personal conversation with Wilkins soon to address the situation and walk away with Wilkins knowing how the community feels about him.

"Feeling loved, cared for," he said. "I love what he is for this city, I love who he is. I don't want this to be a divide between that and I would want him to just feel that - and feel embraced."

In a Bally Sports broadcast on Sunday night, Wilkins again spoke on the issue when asked it by his co-host Bob Rathbun.

"Unfortunately, in this world, we still have people who deal with discrimination, which is a disease we haven't found a way to conquer yet," he said. "And so [it's] very unfortunate, I'm very disappointed that a restaurant in Buckhead would treat anyone that way but let alone myself who - this city, this is my city. And to be treated that way, I was very disappointed."

Wilkins is known as the 'Human Highlight Reel" and was a nine-time NBA All-Star who played for the Hawks from 1982-1994. His jersey was retired by the Hawks on January 13, 2001.  He currently serves as the Hawks' Vice President of Basketball. 

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