H-SAN LUIS OBISPO

May 12, 2011 10:10 PM by Ariel Wesler

Locals upset over Mo Tav's dress code policy

A popular bar in downtown San Luis Obispo says it will take a closer look at its dress code policy after hearing it's upsetting some people.

Mo Tav, once known as Mother's Tavern, does not allow people with visible tattoos inside from 9:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The owner says he inherited the policy a couple years ago from the previous owners. Some people have complained, saying they shouldn't be forced to cover their tattoos.

Devin Valdivia of Pismo Beach has five tattoos. Two of them are visible. Under the current policy at the Mo-Tav bar in downtown San Luis Obispo, he would not be allowed inside during some of the bar's busiest times.

"There are so many kids just trying to be loud and expressive, and they're not trying to hurt anybody," Valdivia said. "I didn't know that these were going to hold me back from having fun with my friends."

The bar's owner says he has no issue with tattoos, but in the past, he believes the policy was put in place to cut down on potential fights. He says looking at each tattoo and leaving it open for interpretation could cause problems.

"We have four other places in town that we don't have this policy and right now, we're just in the process of reevaluating it. We didn't really think that it was an issue," said Mo Tav Owner Ron Meier.

"I think it's just a way for them to control gang problems that are coming in from the Valley. I think that's probably the basis of their policy," said Reid Cain, who also has tattoos.

A lawyer with the ACLU says the sign at the bar is legal because it doesn't discriminate based on race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

But for now, those just looking to have a good time, prepare to cover up your body art or go elsewhere.

Ariel: Does it surprise you that it would have a policy in a town like this?

Valdivia: Well, it's 2011 and in San Luis Obispo, so yeah, it does.

The ACLU says just as we all have a right to free speech, private business owners have rights as well and can operate their businesses as they see fit to ensure safety.

Mo-Tav's management has not yet decided if it will remove the sign.

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