Teen celebrating graduation says she was booted by New Orleans restaurant over outfit

A 17-year-old girl celebrating her high school graduation with dozens of her loved ones said she was kicked out of a New Orleans restaurant because of her outfit.

Sanai Butler was wearing a bikini top with matching leggings, along with her graduation stole and cap, while dining Tuesday at Lula Restaurant Distillery, pictures from the evening show. The teen said she was approached by the owner’s wife, and police were eventually called because of Sanai’s bikini top, according to NOLA.com.

But in a statement issued Wednesday, the restaurant said police were not called because of Sanai’s clothing and no one was forced to leave because of their attire.

“The police were called after three disruptive, adult patrons engaged with another table of patrons, and one of the female owners of Lula,” the restaurant said. “No person or group was escorted off of the property. There were no physical altercations.”

Family members give an alternative description of what happened Tuesday night, when the Butler family was celebrating Sanai’s graduation from Warren Easton Charter School.

Sanai went to the restroom when she was approached by the wife’s owner, who told her to change into another shirt because her bikini was “very inappropriate,” her mother, La Shawn Butler, told NOLA.com. The family was later asked to leave, according to WDSU.

“You were here when we walked in. If there was anything wrong with what she had on, you should have said something at that time,” Sanai’s mom told WDSU. “Not after we had spent well over $2,000 at your establishment. This is when she called the police.”

Lula Restaurant Distillery does not list a dress code on its website.

A woman who witnessed the incident said the restaurant imposed “big racist energy” when it called police. She described Sanai’s outfit and called her “a beautiful, young Black girl” who had “wonderful, joyous energy.”

“We saw two cop cars pull up with lights on and the officers came out & the owner of Lula came outside and was talking to the officer,” the woman said on Twitter. “One of the adults was talking to the other officer. The rest of the family came out. They were videoing. The owner of Lula called the cops on a teenager because she felt she wasn’t dressed appropriately. Now they had been in the restaurant for at least two hours before this happened. What was the issue?!?!?”

Police confirmed to WSDU that it responded to a “disturbance call” at the restaurant, but no report was written detailing the incident.

Sanai said in a statement to NOLA.com it was “a horrible and sad experience.”

The restaurant said it called the police “to ensure the safety of our patrons.”

“We would like to apologize to all of our patrons who were dining with us at the time, our longtime customers, and particularly to any person who feels that Lula discriminated against them based on their attire or race,” according to the restaurant. “We are working with our team, including management and ownership, to determine what should have been done differently and to ensure an enjoyable restaurant and dining environment for everyone.”

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