The Dome nightclub has recently been under fire for its new practices and policies that many people describe as discriminatory – especially against Black people.
Most notoriously, the Dome announced a new dress code in an effort to change its reputation from ‘dirty’ to ‘classy.’ The main criticism of the new dress code is that it specifically targets the kind of clothes that are disproportionately worn by Black men, such as athletic jerseys, white sneakers or gold chains.
“From my experience working on all three levels of the complex, generally the people that were wearing the hoodies, or the white undershirts, or the white sneaks, or the do-rags were the black patrons. How often do you see a white kid wearing a do-rag?” said a current Dalhousie student and former bouncer at the Dome, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of being blacklisted from other bouncing jobs in the city, and from entering any clubs as a patron. “I definitely think it was racially motivated.”
The former bouncer of just six months believes the dress code was racially motivated because when he worked at the Dome, he was specifically instructed to racially profile the Black male patrons.
“When I was still learning, the first few shifts when I was being taught how to do a pat down, they focused a lot more on the black male patrons than the white male patrons,” he said. “The white male patrons were given a quick pat down and sort of just let through … black male patrons were subject to a far more thorough search.”
He also said that within five minutes of his hiring, his manager made a racist joke:
“He sort of elaborated on the fact that the patronage up in Taboo was predominantly black; and that they are the ones who are least likely to cause you problems as the vast majority of them have a criminal record.”
Taboo is the club on the upper level of the building and connected to the Dome as well as the bar Cheers.
The Dome maintains that their new dress code, in conjunction with the other changes such as increased training for security and a permanent managerial presence, was only meant to improve their reputation.
The Grafton Connor Group, which owns the Dome, did not get back to the Gazette in time for publication, but Julia-Simone Rutgers, who wrote an article on the issue for The Coast, was able to speak to their reasoning.
Rutgers said the Dome has long had a reputation for treating its Black patrons unfairly, as does downtown Halifax in general.
For that reason, many Black people choose to avoid downtown Halifax altogether, she said.
Rutgers didn’t defend the new Dome dresscode, but she did give the Grafton Connor Group the benefit of the doubt when it came to their motivations in creating it. She interviewed Alex Elshimy, the Vice President of Grafton Connor, for her story.
“I would say he was incredibly sincere. He was very unaware, I think, of what sort of political atmosphere he was stepping into, and kind of unaware of how some of these things may have come across,” she said. “He seemed a little bit surprised and wanted to look for ways to change that reputation.”
For this former bouncer, he wants to entirely dismiss the notion that Black patrons should be subject to different treatment.
“From my experience, the people that caused the most problems were the 20-something white male students thinking they’re invincible because they have a trust fund behind them,” he added.
Rutgers, who is Black, wasn’t surprised to learn that.
“As a person of colour in this world, you know that that’s the case, you know that everybody else causes trouble and it’s just a matter of stereotyping; it’s a matter of the culture that exists in Halifax,” she said. “Halifax was kinda defacto segregated for so long, and those sort of assumptions and divisions have always existed in the city.