Restaurant issues apology to Hawks legend after he was refused service

ATLANTA — An NBA Hall of Famer who spent most of his career with the Atlanta Hawks says he was refused service restaurant at a Buckhead restaurant known for its French Bistro style food.

[DOWNLOAD: Free WSB-TV News app for alerts as news breaks]

Hawks legend and broadcaster Dominique Wilkins posted on Twitter Saturday that he’d been turned away from grabbing a meal at Le Bilboquet restaurant in the “Shops of Buckhead” plaza. Wilkins posted a photo on Twitter and said the restaurant denied him service.

Wilkins believes he was turned away due to the color of his skin.

TRENDING STORIES:

The restaurant was made aware of the post later in the day and posted a response stating:

“We do our best to accommodate all of our guests. We have a “business casual” dress code which includes jeans & sneakers but prohibits athletic clothing including sweat pants & tops. The definition of “casual” is ever evolving, we strive to maintain our policy requirements daily.”

Later Sunday, the restaurant issued a new statement apologizing to Wilkins, reading:

“We want to apologize to Mr. Wilkins for his experience at our restaurant and also for any confusion our dress code may have caused. We in no way intended for him to feel unwanted, and welcome an open dialogue with him. Our upscale dining experience and our brand’s culture is made up of multiple elements, which include our music, our food and our patrons’ attire. We continue to strive to manifest our dining experience in a way that is exciting and most importantly, inclusive.”

The original statement has since been removed.

Wilkins did add later in the day that he wouldn’t have had an issue if they had said there were no tables available at the restaurant. He added that restaurant staffers looked him “up and down” and told him the clothes he was wearing were not appropriate.

Wilkins says he was wearing “designer casual pants and a shirt.”

Channel 2′s Michael Seiden talked the the restaurant’s general manager, Mark Hoefer, who said that Wilkins’ race had nothing to do with the situation.

“Just to be clear, this had nothing to do with the color of his skin,” Hoefer said. “Oh God no. If anything, I wish I could speak with him personally and speak to him myself. It had nothing to do with the color of his skin.”

The restaurant’s dress code online says hats, flip flops, seat pants and athletic attire is too informal to eat there.

“He is revered and loved in this town for all of the right reasons, and that I have for years counted myself as one of those people who does revere and respect and care for him. And I just want a chance to show that to him in person,” Hoefer said.

Celebrities who live in Atlanta quickly jumped in to blast the restaurant on social media.

“How y’all mistreat NIQUE?” Rapper Killer Mike wrote.

“Dominique is ATLANTA royalty!!” Deion Sanders wrote. “How can this happen?”

When Channel 2 Action News stopped by the restaurant Sunday, our crews found a very diverse crowd. None of the patrons we spoke with accused the restaurant of discrimination.

[SIGN UP: WSB-TV Daily Headlines Newsletter]

Dominique Wilkins played for the Hawks for 12 years. He attended and played basketball at the University of Georgia before he was drafted by the Utah Jazz in 1982 and was traded to Atlanta shortly after.

The nine-time NBA All Star has a statue in front of State Farm arena in downtown Atlanta, where is jersey hangs in the rafters.

Nicknamed the “Human Highlight Film” Wilkins was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006 and has been the “vice-president of basketball” for the Hawks since 2004. He’s also an analyst for the team’s television broadcasts during the NBA season.