Martin Tanaka of Kabuto Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar in Charlotte, North Carolina is a man with opinions. And in his opinion, people who wear baggy pants and hoodies are just plain rude. He has even declared it in a controversial sign that is now plastered on the front door of his restaurant.
Other signs of disrespect, according to Mr. Tanaka, include the following: wearing a hoodie with the hood up, speaking on a cell phone in the restaurant. Oh, and also this: Smelling of marijuana.
According to local TV station WSOC, some customers are not pleased. "It looks like they are trying to say something about some kind of race," one nearby resident, who did not want to be named, told a reporter.
The sign has apparently been in place for three years, but Mr. Tanaka feels so strongly about it that he recently made it bigger so people would definitely notice it. And they have.
Tanaka is willing to jump into the racially charged implications of hoodies and seems not to be worried about any backlash. His sign simply reads: "Take your hood down. Pull your pants up. Finish your phone conversation. Marijuana smell not allowed. We will be glad to assist you."
— Angela Hong (@AngelaWSOC9) March 2, 2016
And he's proud of it: "It's actually the best response we've ever had. More people think that more places should do it," he said recently.
Tanaka says the particular nature of his restaurant makes the sign a necessity. Because he serves hibachi-style food, he says customers share tables. Therefore, this restaurateur says, showing respect to others is essential. And he's willing to define exactly what "respect" means.
"Our regular customers are families, and we count on a lot of small children to come to this restaurant," Tanaka told WSOC. "I believe our society is lacking on respect, and I think we're falling behind on it." When MUNCHIES reached out to Tanaka, he told us, "When you eat, it's your own time. We all do so much for other people in our regular life, but when you are eating you can dedicate that time to yourself."
Apparently, some customers have recently enjoyed a bit of weed while indulging in Mr. Tanaka's fare. He said that last week, he had to ask customers to leave the premises because others complained of the smell of marijuana. "We have to turn them out because we don't like that in our establishment," he stated. Tanaka told MUNCHIES, "I know in some states marijuana is legal, but you are sitting with other parties at our restaurant and I don't think it's respectful."
Some customers are all for Mr. Tanaka's rules: "I mean, it is his restaurant and he chooses whatever he wants to put up," Sinai Hernandez said. "It's like if I wanted to put up rules in my house."
But others aren't so sure the "hoodie" and "baggy pants" references aren't racially driven. Tanaka denies it and says he has and will continue to turn away people of all races for going against his standards."I just don't like to see anybody's underwear while I'm eating," explains Tanaka.
There are several Kabuto locations in the Charlotte area, and each is owned and operated independently. We reached out to those locations and they told us they do not have similar policies in place for their customers.