Approximately 45 million Americans have at least one tattoo. In one Texas sports bar, however, some of those people may not be very welcomed.
The Houston Chronicle reports that 27 year-old Erik Leighton, a chemical plant worker and Houston resident, was escorted out of a bar last Saturday because of his facial tattoos. Leighton and a friend of his were kicked out of the bar by a police officer due to concerns that his tattoos indicated his membership in a violent gang.
“I have no criminal record,” Leighton told local TV station KHOU. “I work hard at a plant. I have two cats. I’m the furthest thing from a gang member.”
According to him, Leighton and his friend entered Bombshells, a bar and grill known for the revealing attire its waitresses wear and its campy, retro feel, around 9 P.M. Shortly thereafter, employees reportedly instructed a police officer at the bar to remove the two from the establishment.
Leighton claims that he had been to the bar a few times before and he had never encountered a problem. He also claims that the other Bombshells locations in the area never cited any issues, either.
Leighton has tattoos under his right eye, above his left eye, below his lips, and on top of his beard. He also has other tattoos on his neck, hands, fingers, arms, and head. His companion, 22 year-old Chad Moss, has no tattoos.
“I don’t think I should have been asked to leave, regardless, especially escorted out by a police officer,” Leighton said. “[The police officer] told us that the bar didn’t allow face tattoos.”
The bar’s management has been reluctant to speak to reporters. The Daily News reported that the managers directed questions to a representative, who did not immediately return a call for comment.
After the incident, Leighton took his grievances to social media, railing against Bombshells on Facebook and Yelp. As a result, the bar’s pages on those sites were inundated with complaints. The complaints became so furious and frequent that Bombshells removed its Facebook page for that particular location; its Yelp rating went from 4.5 to 3 stars in a matter of days.
“Well f— bombshells! They just kicked me out for having face tattoos,” Leighton wrote on a Facebook post. “If anyone has time, do me a favor and write a terrible review for bombshells. Let’s make them think twice before discriminating against tattoos.”
The bar’s staff eventually replied to Leighton’s post, offering an apology for any offense the staff may have caused. The staff was quick to point out, though, that “most” facial tattoos are gang-related and that the bar has had bad experiences with gang members frequenting the bar in the past. They also noted that the policy was exclusive to that location. As an olive branch of sorts, the staff offered to meet with Leighton and Moss at the bar, albeit in a different location.
Although there is no word yet on whether Leighton will accept their offer, he does express hope that his protests will lead Bombshells to change its policies.
“I understand I look different and that I took things to a whole level by getting these tattoos,” he said, adding, “if they’re discriminating against face tattoos, what else are they discriminating against?”