Are pub and bar dress codes still relevant in 2023?

No singlet tops, no thongs, no ripped jeans and no hi-vis workwear — have you ever been refused entry into a pub or club because of your outfit, footwear or hairstyle?

In Western Australia patrons flouting the dress code in licensed premises have made for some controversial headlines over the years.

Back in 2011, a nightclub displayed a sign which stated: ‘no metrosexual attire’, refusing entry to patrons wearing skinny jeans, low-cut T-shirts, shirts with numbers on them, pointed white shoes and visible neck chains.

Earlier this year, a young man was refused entry into a Perth hotel for sporting an “impressive”, classic ’80s mullet.

Hospitality worker Andrew Verne was caught out a few months ago when he arrived at a Perth bar just after 6pm, when the evening dress code had kicked in.

“It was a warm, sunny Sunday evening — we came from another venue, and we were wearing nice dress shorts,” he says.

“There were also people inside the venue wearing shorts already, but they had a policy of ‘smart casual’ from six o’clock.

“The females in the line were allowed in with shorts. It’s 2022, what’s the difference?”

Friday shift knock-off often ends with a trip to the pub, but what if there’s a strict dress code? ()

Around Australia, dress codes have long been accepted and enforced in licensed premises with the expectation that they ‘set the tone’ and reflect the theme and atmosphere of a venue.

According to Western Australia’s liquor licensing policy, dress standards should “reflect local community expectations”.

The policy states: “The dress standards which one would expect in the public bar of a remote country tavern may be quite different to a lounge bar of a five-star hotel in Perth.”

A licensee of a venue is required to display signage of their dress standards, and can refuse entry to a person if they are not dressed to those standards.

Designer crocs can cost up to $800 and considered high fashion, but aren’t acceptable footwear in some bars.()

Enforcing dress standards isn’t an ‘exact science’

Lawyer Jessica Patterson has worked in the hospitality, liquor licensing and events area of law in Western Australia for 25 years, and says dress standards were open to interpretation.

“[Dress codes] are not an exact science. There’s always going to be discretion and there’s always going to be slight differences from human being to human being,” she says.

“What’s reasonable [dress] will always need to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

“Licensees will often provide their staff with particular examples of types of clothing that may not be acceptable. One recent example I have seen is heavy gold chains.”

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