Certain bars in Houston have long been notorious for their dress codes. For example, in 2012, Tyler Deric, a backup goalie for the Houston Dynamo, became involved in a physical and legal altercation outside Heights bar Roosevelt Lounge after being denied entry because his group of friends "didn't meet the dress code." Deric maintained the dress code excuse was merely a front for disallowing his black friends entry. In 2011 the Press did a cover story on how various Houston bars use dress codes and other door policies to actively discriminate against their clientele.
So it might be a surprise that one Houston bar has what is apparently a reverse-dress code. But a Rice alumnus was kicked out of Valhalla last Thursday for the most innocuous of clothing -- a necktie.
The alumnus -- he did not want to use his real name, so we'll call him Irving -- graduated from Rice University in 2008. He said he likes to wear ties to work now, because men get only so many socially acceptable fashion accessories (and we've all agreed that fedoras are douche-y). But apparently Valhalla, the underground graduate student-run bar on the Rice campus, has a long-standing "tradition" against ties, so Irving was kicked out. Not just kicked out. Banned.
Here's what happened. Pay attention, because it gets convoluted: Irving showed up at Valhalla around 7 p.m., right after work, to get a drink and hang out with some friends. He ordered a beer at the bar and went outside. About an hour later he went back inside to get a second beer. Later, when he went for a third beer, a bartender told him she wouldn't serve him until he took off his tie.
Irving thought that was stupid, so he refused to remove it. (It should also be noted that he was wearing a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches, but it was the tie at which the bartender took umbrage.) According to Irving, the first bartender called another bartender over to discuss. Irving's friend tried to buy him a beer instead in an attempt to calm the situation. Then a third bartender joined the fray, armed with a pair of scissors, and threatened to cut Irving's tie right off of his neck.
At this point Irving was holding two beers: his and his friend's. He had the beer he wanted, so he moved outside. Meanwhile, the bartenders figured out his name, and, according to Irving, kept looking outside, glaring at his group.
A little later, someone in Irving's group went inside and and saw this written on the whiteboard:
So now not only is Irving banned, but so is his entire entourage, by glory of association.
(By the way, when Irving tweeted this photo, Valhalla re-tweeted it.)
Here's what's weird. I have gone into Valhalla sweating and stinking like a pig after middle-of-summer runs around the Rice loop and been served. I have snuck my dog into Valhalla and set him on a barstool as if he were a human being, and I was served. For a place that feels so laid-back, this seems like a really uptight way to respond to an alumnus.
But tradition is tradition, even if some people -- Irving included -- have never heard of the tradition nor seen it in practice. Note that Valhalla also extended a personal invitation to famous astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who almost never appears in public without a necktie.
I have also heard rumbles of other Houston bars -- including Catbirds -- being inhospitable to people in semi-formal and formal wear. So I called up the Montrose institution and asked the bartender at Catbirds if they had a special dress code.
"You mean like a reverse dress code?" she laughed. "No, we don't have that."
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No one answered the phone when I called Valhalla for comment.
Meanwhile, Irving says he plans to keep drinking at the legendary Rice bar.
"I know this comes nowhere near the sort of racially-based dress code discrimination that happens at other Houston bars," he said. "This was just bad hospitality."
We'll update when we hear back from Valhalla.