COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – After being accused of being racist and discriminatory due to a dress code that was posted, the parent company of a The Short North Food Hall is working to make sure the same mistakes are not made again. Last week the sign the dress code was on was taken down after it was heavily criticized.
Some of the rules on it were no baggy clothing, no athletic clothing, no work boots, no excessive jewelry and no flat brimmed hats. Some saw some of the rules as racist and discriminatory.
“I said last week I was very disappointed that in 2020 that these kinds of occurrences actually happen,” said Stephanie Hightower, President and CEO of the Columbus Urban League.
When she heard about the dress code that had been posted at the Short North Food Hall, she wanted to meet with the club’s parent company, Corso Ventures. Early this week there was a meeting between Corso Ventures, NAACP Columbus, The Columbus Community Relations Commission and The Columbus Urban League. According to a joint statement from all those parties, Chris Corso convened the meeting.
“We are just glad we have an opportunity to work with him to figure out how we ensure that these kinds of things don’t happen again,” said Hightower.
The joint statement was sent to NBC4 on Thursday.
“The dress code was clearly a mistake. Sadly it raised a number of concerns about racism and bigotry that, while never intended, are clearly understandable. Chris Corso and his entire team are truly sorry for the error,” the groups wrote in the statement.
The statement explains the motivation behind the policy was about safety and says over the past year Corso and staff have become increasingly concerned over continuous reports of stolen cell phones, patrons being drugged and physical assaults.
“If this is a real safety issue than that wasn’t communicated,” said Hightower about the previously posted dress code.
Now The Columbus Urban League is working with the company to address the safety concerns and make sure things are better communicated. Hightower also says other places in the Short North could learn from this as well.
“This was an opportunity for us to take this crisis and hopefully move it towards something positive that will benefit not only his business but also be beneficial to the community,” she said.
According to the statement all 400 Corso Ventures employees will also have diversity and inclusion training in the near future. The full statement can be read below.
January 23, 2020
In response to questions raised about a posted Dress Code at the Short North Food Hall, entrepreneur Chris Corso recently convened a meeting with Nana Watson, Columbus Branch President of the NACCP, Chris Cozad, Chair of the Columbus Community Relations Commission, and Stephanie Hightower, President and CEO of the Columbus Urban League.
Together, they crafted a three-pronged strategy for addressing the discrimination concerns that arose because of the Dress Code, as well as confronting the underlying security issues which led to its use. The following is a joint statement. Note that it represents a starting point for additional discussions and a series of ideas, which will continue to evolve as needed:
“The Dress Code was clearly a mistake. Sadly, it raised a number of concerns about racism and bigotry that, while never intended, are clearly understandable. Chris Corso and his entire team are truly sorry for the error.
“That said, the motivation behind the signage stemmed from a sense of urgency to better protect customers, employees and the entire Short North community. Over the last year, Corso and his staff have become increasingly concerned, hearing a nearly continuous series of reports of stolen cell phones, patrons being unknowingly drugged and actual physical assaults. They know many young people flow through the dark area alleys late at night and sometimes alone.
“These very real and valid issues led us to collectively move forward and ask the Neighborhood Intervention Specialists from the Columbus Urban League to undertake a safety assessment. We look forward to hearing their guidance and insights based upon their vast experience with gangs and crime and their extensive community contacts.
“We also have reached out to the Short North Business Association to convene community conversations around safety and inclusion. The issues at stake extend far beyond just one establishment or block.
“Finally, though the 400 people who work for Corso Ventures are very diverse, we all benefit from reminders about how to demonstrate greater tolerance, compassion and respect for one another. All Corso Ventures staff will participate in diversity and inclusion training in the near future.
“This is a teachable moment. Our intention is that it galvanize diverse leaders to collaborate, find common ground and create a safer and more welcoming Short North.”