ST. LOUIS • Gents, don’t come to Busch Stadium in a tank top this summer with plans to grab a postgame beer at Ballpark Village. Sleeveless shirts, for men, are one of the many items banned from bars and restaurants in the new complex after 9 p.m.
Athletic shorts are barred after dark. As are sweat suits, team jerseys (unless it’s game day, of course) — and children.
Minors must always be accompanied by a legal guardian, according to policies listed on the Ballpark Village website. And no one under 21 can enter after 9 p.m.
Ballpark Village, the long-awaited joint venture between the Cardinals and co-developer Cordish Cos. of Baltimore, opened to media Tuesday, revealing the complex in all its sports-bar glory: A 35-foot television (measured on the diagonal), a retractable glass roof and red leather bench seats worthy of a cigar bar or late-night lounge.
The complex officially opens Thursday, with a ribbon-cutting and a free concert by Third Eye Blind.
But if Cordish’s other developments are any indicator, it’s the dress code that could cause the most controversy.
Cordish’s rules on proper attire have stirred outrage in Louisville, Ky., where the company developed Fourth Street Live, and Kansas City, where it runs the Power & Light entertainment district.
In both cities, civic and civil rights leaders charged that the dress codes targeted African-Americans, and, worse, were selectively enforced. Just this month, attorneys filed a class action suit alleging a pattern of discrimination at Power & Light.
The dress codes at several Ballpark Village bars, according to the website, are similar to those at Power & Light.
Ballpark Village, itself, doesn’t have a dress code, noted Ron Watermon, vice president of communications for the Cardinals. Nor does the team’s restaurant, Cardinals Nation. Team executives, he said, are expecting fans to adhere to the same rules they follow in the ballpark: no obscene or indecent clothing.
“Our focus is on creating a family environment,” Watermon said of the restaurant.
Other Ballpark Village venues without dress codes — Drunken Fish sushi, for instance — may also be accessible from outside the complex, he said.
But dress codes at eight of the village’s new bars and restaurants are nearly identical:
No sagging pants. No exposed undergarments on men. No profanity on clothing. And no “excessively long shirts,” which the website painstakingly defines thusly: “When standing upright with arms at your side, the bottom of your shirt cannot extend below the tip of your fingers.”
One of the bars, the Budweiser Brew House, even prohibits hats on its second level.
Such rules have brought challenges in other cities.
In 2004, the American Civil Liberties Union secured a compromise with Cordish after objecting to a dress code in Louisville. And in Kansas City, attorneys alleged this year that Cordish tried to keep African-Americans from Power & Light clubs by hiring two men to start fights with black patrons.
A second suit, filed March 10, alleges a practice of harassment, targeting, humiliation and exclusion in order to limit black patrons in the entertainment district.
An attorney for Cordish has denied the accusations.
Watermon, the Cardinals vice president, said he didn’t know of conversations on the subject of dress codes between Cordish and the Cardinals.
Cordish is the managing partner of the project, he said, chosen for its success in urban development. Watermon said he thought such rules had their place. “An upscale restaurant may have a jacket requirement,” he said. A golf course may prohibit shorts or denim. “A lot of those things,” he said, “are legitimate.”