This feature started out as a review – The Oxton Bar and Terrace had been on SevenStreets’ radar for a while, and we’d scheduled a visit. However, as you’re about to read, we never got so far as ordering an appetiser before we were asked to leave…
The venue in question is your typical suburban style bar, serving – so we’d heard – decent grub. Oxton Village is resurgent these days – a bright enclave of independent stores and leafy terraces.
But when SevenStreets paid a visit recently, things took an altogether nastier turn. And we experienced, first hand, why some residents aren’t exactly thrilled with the arrival of this busy bar, and why, despite the food, The Oxton Bar and Terrace has been known to leave a sour taste in the mouth.
SevenStreets doesn’t like to eat alone, so we arrived with a friend. Our friend is much like you or us – he likes to eat, he knows his way around a menu, and is a thoroughly decent chap. A perfect lunchtime companion, you might say.
Oh, but he’s also just had major reconstructive surgery following a brain tumour operation, and has to wear a reinforced hat for protection.
And this, dear readers, is where the story takes a shocking turn.
Settling ourselves in, we’d began to peruse the menus when a waitress asks our companion – let’s call him John – to remove his hat.
“Why?” SevenStreets asked.
“It’s our dress code,” the waitress explained.
Ah. It’ll be a simple matter, we thought, of explaining how John’s headwear is no jaunty fashion statement, but a medical necessity.
At least, that’s what you’d think, yes?
We spoke to Licensee, Michael Atkinson, who wasted no time in, again, asking John to remove his hat or be escorted from the premises.
“We don’t care what the excuse is,” Atkinson told SevenStreets. “We have a dress code, and we have every right to refuse entry to anybody who doesn’t obey it. We want to create a certain tone in here, and our decision is final. He can either take the hat off and stay, or I’m going to have to ask you to leave…”
Really? Even if, as SevenStreets pointed out, he was required to wear the hat to protect his skull? And that the Licensing Act required licensees to uphold equal opportunities for all?
“If you don’t like our rules, eat somewhere else,” Atkinson responded.
By this time, of course, we’d clearly made our minds up. Lunch was definitely off. As were any future visits.
Still, Atkinson’s not making this stuff up. The Oxton Bar and Terrace proclaims, on its website, that: Gentlemen Will Remove Their Hats. Even, it seems, if by doing so, they risk serious injury.
Talking of serious injury, one of Oxton Bar and Terrace’s Gentlemen customers risked it just this weekend – when a fight on the Terrace resulted in a (hatless) patron’s head being smashed to the ground, and an emergency dash to Arrowe Park hospital.
A terrible tale, for sure. But there’s a grim irony here, too. And, SevenStreets has discovered, this isn’t the first such incident at The Oxton Bar and Terrace.
Last April, two Gentlemen bumped into each other at the bar. Yet, instead of arranging a duel at dawn (as we believe affronted Gentlemen are wont to do) one customer lunged at the other and stabbed him with a four inch blade. He was later jailed for 21 months.
Neither were wearing hats. Nor, it seems, Harris Tweed body armour. Dress codes, eh? What is it with dress-code bars and random acts of violence? And how many transgressions of its License will The Oxton Bar and Terrace be allowed to get away with before the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral’s Licensing Act Sub-Committee investigates?
SevenStreets spoke to David Fowles-Towler, at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and relayed our tale. Fowles-Towler was in no doubt, Licencee Michael Atkinson would be breaking the law if, within 14 days of receiving notice, he didn’t change his policies, in line with the Disability Discrimination Act.
“It’s against the law for service providers to treat disabled people less favourably than other people for a reason related to their disability,” he told us. “They have to make reasonable adjustments to the way they deliver their services so that disabled people can use them. In this case, there’s just no argument – the dress must should be modified to prevent incidents like this happening again.”
This event happened well over 14 days ago, it was a few months back. The dress code hasn’t been modified.
“I’m not interested,” Atkinson said when SevenStreets challenged him at the time about his stance.
“If a disabled person in a wheelchair came in with tracksuit trousers on, we’d ask him to leave too.”
Oh, but what about the review?
It’s a short one: Don’t go to The Oxton Bar and Terrace. We see no gentlemen there.