There was some talk recently about how many downtown merchants lose business during Bele Chere. I can easily see why. I have found that many downtown businesses that pretend to be so hip and artsy are in fact pretentious, arrogant and hostile to certain people who may choose to dress differently from the norm. This is usually manifested by rude, unwelcoming signs, such as one displayed by one business that reads: “No shirt, no shoes, NO ADMITTANCE.” It is rather ironic that this particular [business] actually has the audacity to also post in its window another sign reading: “Keep Asheville weird.”
Another business … that advertises “old fashioned friendly service” in fact sends a very different message with the “No shirt, No shoes, No service” signs displayed in its window. Such signs are an anachronism, a reminder of the Viet Nam War days when conservative, pro-government business owners attempted to strike back at barefoot hippies and other war protesters. Prior to that era, no such signs existed.
Most of these problems are caused by the pervasive belief in the myth that there are “health department” rules against customers being barefoot in stores or restaurants. The fact is, there are none.
Bare feet are not a health issue—not for the barefooter and not for anyone else. I know of no health department anywhere in the United States that regulates what customers wear or don’t wear on their feet, simply because there is no medical or scientific reason for any health department to become involved in a customer’s attire.
Downtown businesses would never have a reason to complain about lack of business during Bele Chere, or any other time, if they would focus more on friendly service and less on customers’ attire.
— Kriss Sands
Editor’s note: According to Eddie Shook, supervisor of the Food and Lodging Division of the Buncombe County Health Department, the requirement (or lack thereof) for wearing shoes in a restaurant is completely up to the establishment itself.