Opinion sig

A proposed dress code for Lincoln’s new outdoor entertainment district targets wearers of cut-off shirts, tank tops and clothing associated with gangs. If a plan devised by business managers in The Railyard is adopted, spiked bracelets, long chains and other apparel deemed offensive won’t have any place in the 51,000-square-foot dining, nightlife and shopping area adjacent to Pinnacle Bank Arena. The proposal, outlined in a Monday news story, raises several concerns in the eyes of Daily Nebraskan editorial board members.

Specifically, the Daily Nebraskan worries the proposal’s ambiguity will cause those of certain demographics to be unfairly targeted. Much of the apparel deemed unwanted by the managers can be found in college-aged students’ wardrobes. The editorial board fails to see how something as simple as a tank top would detract from the “sophisticated and mature atmosphere” the managers strive to create.

Moreover, the dress code appears to be rooted in arbitrary perceptions of the objectionable.  Gang-related clothing, for example, could encompass something as simple as a Husker sweatshirt, given the gang-connotations of Nebraska athletics’ primary color. But it’s doubtful the private security firm hired to enforce the restrictions – essentially fashion police – will seek to have half the area’s patrons removed from the premises.

More likely, the dress code and other proposed rules of conduct will create unnecessary limits on free expression and drive potential business elsewhere. Stefanie Warner, who was hired by WRK Real Estate to oversee the project, said developers want the area to boast a reputation as family-friendly. Specifically, she said, they don’t want the area to become another O Street, where sometimes-rowdy crowds of college students amass on weekend nights. But while the new rules may create a perception of safety and comfort for some, they will inevitably lead others to feel unwanted and out of place in the west Haymarket.

Such an environment would be anything but family-friendly.