Clothes encounters: Restaurant dress codes

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

CLOTHES ENCOUNTERS: Some of the strictest dress codes in the city have been relaxed.

As of six months ago at the Prime Rib downtown, gentlemen no longer have to wear ties. And as of last week, callers to 1789 are informed, for the first time in the Georgetown restaurant's 40-plus years, that jackets are requested rather than required.

"We're lightening things up," says William Watts, the general manager of 1789.

Larry Bravman, the maitre d' at the Prime Rib, says "the times" forced the change in policy at the venerable steakhouse: "People don't dress up the way they used to." The upside: "We're seeing younger people now."

Fashion formalities haven't been completely shoved into the closet, those and other restaurants point out. 1789 plans to revisit its decision in the fall; the Prime Rib, which hangs on to its coat requirement for men, keeps dozens of jackets in a variety of sizes and "any color, as long as it's navy," jokes Bravman.

Tom Power, the chef-owner at Corduroy across from the Washington Convention Center, says dress codes set the tone for restaurants.

Corduroy does not allow shorts or hats and maintains a "jackets preferred" standard for its patrons. The biggest problem Power has had is with customers, mostly women, who arrive in shorts at his upscale dining room. That's why he stocks chef-style "loaner" black pants in three sizes for men and dark wraparound skirts for women.

He recently had to buy more of the garments. "People steal them," Power says.

-- Tom Sietsema

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