Push for dress code tattoo bans to be included in Queensland’s anti-discrimination law

A Queensland businessman wants anti-discrimination laws changed to stop pubs, clubs and restaurants from barring people with face and neck tattoos.

His push has won backing from civil libertarians and tattoo artists, with lawyers saying owners of venues with discriminatory dress codes are already breaking existing human rights laws – but the issue has yet to be tested in front of the public. courts.

Daniel Lowry, 34, has a large rose tattoo on his neck and other visible body art.

“I’m a young Australian, I’m a business owner, I’m a musician,” he said.

Mr Lowry has been refused entry to restaurants because of his tattoos.(ABC News: Michael Lloyd)

Over the years he has been refused entry to venues on the Gold Coast and Brisbane – including a family birthday dinner at The Blackbird in Brisbane’s Eagle St Pier and the popular Burleigh Pavilion when he visited Burleigh Heads on his honeymoon.

“Moments like that are very frustrating because the reasoning makes absolutely no sense to me. I should be able to dine out with my family.”

Submission to change laws

As the Queensland Human Rights Commission is currently reviewing the state’s anti-discrimination law, Mr Lowry has filed a petition with lawmakers asking them to make anti-tattoo dress codes illegal.

At the moment, they are not covered by Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Act, written 30 years ago.

A report will be delivered to the attorney general next month detailing proposed changes to the laws after submissions on a wide range of issues.

A tattooed man walks his dog down a suburban street
Mr Lowry says he feels like he is lumped in with ‘extremists’ and ‘criminals’ because of his body art.(ABC News: Michael Lloyd)

According to Mr Lowry, he called for tattoos to be classified as “physical characteristics” and “bodily characteristics” which cannot be discriminated against.

“The subtext of what they’re saying is that you belong to a group, and there are criminals or extremists in that group, and we’re going to kick you all out because of that.”

Tattoo artists want change

Gold Coast tattoo artist Tim Ebbles, owner of Borderline Tattoos in Burleigh Heads for more than two decades, said many customers with visible tattoos no longer go out to pubs and clubs because they know they would not enter.

“I think tattooed people are very persecuted or watched,” he said.

A man stands behind art in a tattoo shop
Mr Ebbles says many customers with tattoos on their faces and necks no longer go to approved venues.(ABC News: Alexandria Utting)

“Everyone should be allowed to go wherever they want and have a beer, relax and have fun.”

Tattoo artist Jayden Moles says many people use body art to mark important events or remember loved ones.

“There are people who have good jobs and are well covered in tattoos, say, from wrist to toe, but at the same time they are not well seen either.

“It’s 2022, we’re in the new era. Everyone has tattoos, unfortunately.”

Freedom of expression protected

Queensland Council for Civil Liberties (QCCL) Deputy Chairman Terry O’Gorman believed that although there are no protective provisions in the state’s anti-discrimination law, the Human Rights Act of Rights in Queensland protected “freedom of expression, including through art”.

“There’s a wide range of people in the community who have tattoos. I’ve met a number of police officers, including police prosecutors, trades and people from all walks of life…and a number growing number of women.”

A man in a pink shirt with a red tie sits at a desk looking at papers and into the camera
Mr O’Gorman says the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties will write to the relevant authorities about the dress code practice.(ABC News: Marton Dobras)

He said dress codes that sought to ban customers with certain tattoos were sticking to “old-fashioned” views, and QCCL should write to the Office of Alcohol and Gaming Regulation (OLGR ) to draw attention to what he described as “completely illegal”. practice”.

Mr O’Gorman said the dress codes were reminiscent of hardline laws introduced as part of the Newman government’s controversial crackdown on biker gangs.

“Some authorized premises permit holders were supported by the police to prevent people with tattoos from entering because they were suspected of being associated with bikers,” he said.

Right to choose owners of places

Glen Day is a member of the Queensland Council of the Restaurant and Catering Industry Association of Australia.

The Gold Coast businessman said restaurants, clubs and pubs should have the right to enforce dress codes.

“They have to make that decision themselves and they should have the right to do so,” Mr Day said.

A man stands in front of a pancakes in paradise sign
Gold Coast restaurant owner Mr Day says business owners have the right to choose who enters.(ABC News: Alexandria Utting)

The restaurateur said he doesn’t have a no-tattoos dress code in his restaurants because they are family-friendly establishments, but high-end restaurants often ban face tattoos and neck for good reasons.

“Not everyone who has tattoos is a violent person,” he said.

“But there are some who look very aggressive with their tattoos and they do it on purpose.

“You can pick them from a mile away, usually they have some sort of chip on their shoulder and they want to be a big person and you can see that.

“So that gives them [the venue] the opportunity to say, ‘Sorry, guys, we don’t allow tattoos’, to protect other guests, and I think that’s fair enough.”

Many venue owners who spoke anonymously about their dress codes acknowledged that banning face, neck and hand tattoos was controversial.

However, most said it was the only mechanism they had to prevent people from entering places that might intimidate other customers.

A spokesperson for the Office of Alcohol and Gaming Regulation said it does not regulate dress codes at licensed venues, except for requirements to prevent people from wearing prohibited items associated with organizations identified criminals, including outlaw motorcycle gangs.

He said the Liquor Act specified other circumstances in which licensees and their staff could refuse entry, including “where the person is unduly intoxicated, disorderly or a non-exempt minor”.

“A boss has the option of taking a case to the Queensland Human Rights Commission if they feel they have been personally affected by the discrimination.”

Operators of Burleigh Pavilion and Blackbird declined to comment.

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