A Queensland businessman wants anti-discrimination laws changed to stop pubs, clubs and restaurants from barring people with face and neck tattoos from entry.
- The Queensland Human Rights Commission is currently reviewing the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act
- Civil libertarians, tattooists and people with tattoos are pushing for the laws to include dress codes barring people with face and neck tattoos from venues
- Lawyers say some venue owners are already breaching existing human rights laws with their dress codes
His push has gained the support of civil libertarians and tattooists, with lawyers saying venue owners with discriminatory dress codes are already breaching existing human rights laws — but the issue is yet to be tested in court.
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.
Over the years he has been denied entry from venues on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane — including a family birthday dinner at Blackbird at Brisbane’s Eagle St Pier, and the popular Burleigh Pavilion when he was visiting Burleigh Heads on his honeymoon.
“Times like that, it’s very frustrating because the reasoning makes absolutely zero sense to me. I should be able to dine at a restaurant with my family.”
Submission to change laws
With the Queensland Human Rights Commission currently reviewing the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act, Mr Lowry filed a submission to law-makers asking them to make anti-tattoo dress codes illegal.
At the moment, they are not covered by Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Act — which was drafted 30 years ago.
A report will be handed to the Attorney-General next month, detailing proposed changes to the laws after submissions on a diverse range of issues.
In Mr Lowry’s submission, he asked for tattoos to be classified as “physical features” and “bodily characteristics” that 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 exclude all of you because of that.”
Tattooists want change
Gold Coast tattooist Tim Ebbles, who has owned Borderline Tattoos in Burleigh Heads for more than two decades, said many clients with visible tattoos no longer went out to pubs and clubs because they knew they would not get in.
“I think tattooed people are very persecuted or looked upon,” he said.
“Everyone should be allowed to go anywhere they like and have a beer and relax and enjoy themselves.”
Fellow tattooist Jayden Moles said many people got body art to mark significant events or remember loved ones.
“There are people in good jobs who are well-covered in tattoos from, say, wrist to feet, but at the same time, they’re also not looked upon in a good way.
“It’s 2022, we’re up in the new age. Everyone’s got tattoos, unfortunately.”
Freedom of expression protected
Queensland Council for Civil Liberties (QCCL) vice president Terry O’Gorman believed that while there were no protective provisions in the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act, the Queensland Human Rights Act protected “freedom of expression, including by way of art”.
“There’s a wide range of people in the community who wear tattoos. I have come across a number of police officers, including police prosecutors, tradies and people right across the spectrum … and an increasing number of women.”
He said dress codes that sought to ban patrons with certain tattoos were holding onto “old fashioned” views, and the QCCL was expected to write to the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation (OLGR) to draw attention to what he described as “quite illegal practice”.
Mr O’Gorman said the dress codes harked back to hard-line laws introduced as part of the Newman government’s controversial crackdown on bikie gangs.
“Some licensees of licensed premises were leant on by the police to stop people who were wearing tattoos from coming in because they were thought to be associated with bikers,” he said.
Venue owners’ right to choose
Glen Day is a Queensland Council member 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’ve got to make that decision themselves and they should have the right,” Mr Day said.
The restaurateur said he did not have a dress code that banned tattoos at his restaurants because they were family establishments, but high-end restaurants often disallowed face and neck tattoos for good reasons.
“Not everyone with tattoos is a violent person,” he said.
“But there are some that do look very aggressive with their tattoos and they do that deliberately.
“You can pick them out a mile away, usually they’ve got 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 customers, and I think it’s fair enough.”
Many venue owners who spoke anonymously about their dress codes acknowledged bans on face, neck and hand tattoos were controversial.
However, most said it was the only mechanism they had to stop people coming into venues who may intimidate other customers.
A spokesman for the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation said it did not regulate dress codes in licensed venues, except for requirements to stop people wearing prohibited items associated with identified criminal organisations, including outlaw motorcycle gangs.
He said the Liquor Act specified other circumstances where licensees and their staff could refuse entry, including “where the person is unduly intoxicated, disorderly or a non-exempt minor”.
“A patron has an ability to take a matter to the Queensland Human Rights Commission if they feel they have been personally affected by discrimination.”
The operators of Burleigh Pavilion and Blackbird declined to comment.
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