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Bob entered a grocery store without a shirt. Charles entered a restaurant.

Are there any laws that make either of these either absolutely or conditionally a problem?

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3 Answers 3

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There's no law specifying that shirts must be worn by people visiting shops or restaurants.

As the owner or tenant of the property the business can set the rules for who is allowed entry and service, provided it does not discriminate based on a 'protected characteristic' in the Equality Act.

The business can set a 'dress code' and refuse entry to people who are not dressed to code.

If a rule says "no topless people" that's OK. If a rule says "men must not be topless" then on the face of it that's unlawful discrimination. If a rule requires smart footwear that's OK. If a rule says "women must wear high heels" then on the face of it that's unlawful discrimination.

Generally the business can refuse to serve a person and require the person to leave the premises. If the person refuses to leave then they commit the civil tort of trespass. If the person then obstructs the lawful activity of the business or damages its property then they commit the criminal offence of aggravated trespass.

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  • Wait... so if the rule says "only topless people" that's okay?
    – Andy
    Commented Jul 22, 2023 at 15:05
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    @Andy If they can enforce a dress code, they can enforce a weird dress code. There might be some clubs with such a dress code, but the limitation seems to be financial viability, not legality.
    – prosfilaes
    Commented Jul 22, 2023 at 20:46
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    @Andy Indeed, there are naturist clubs who may enforce a 'totally no clothes' dress-code. Commented Jul 23, 2023 at 15:36
  • Well my comment was actually intended to expose that such a rule would be rather lopsided, especially in cultures where men going topless was considered acceptable but women not so much. Hence, a reason why such a rule might not be considered ok.
    – Andy
    Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 20:03
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    @Seekinganswers "When have you ever seen a dress code saying that men can’t be topless" - in numerous shops, restaurants, bars etc near beaches. I imagine the owners assumed (based on their experience?) that women don't enter those places topless and therefore didn't think to write "no topless people" or "everyone must wear a top" but instead specified men.
    – Lag
    Commented Sep 14, 2023 at 16:00
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In the U.S. there is frequent signage on store and restaurant fronts that amounts to a "No shirt, no shoes, no service" message. This would likely fall under a pre-emptive "Trespass" warning as the store owner can refuse to allow a sale transaction to go through and ask the offender to leave if they do not comply. At this point, if the offender refuses to comply and leave, they could be charged with trespassing.

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    – Dale M
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 21:24
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This has been in the UK news (WalesOnline, which is where I happened to read it) recently - in some areas of Spain there are laws, and not just about inside certain establishments:

In hotspots such as Barcelona and Majorca, topless men and women wearing bikinis face fines of up to €300 (£253) if they’re spotted walking around away from the beach. This can also include adjacent streets - so keep your shirts and cover-ups on until you hit the sand.

Or in the words of the UK Foreign Office

In some parts of Spain it’s against the law to be in the street wearing only a bikini or swimming shorts. Being bare-chested is also illegal in some areas in Spain. You may be fined if you’re caught wearing swimwear on the seafront promenade or adjacent streets.

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  • FCDO says "In some parts of Spain it’s against the law to be in the street wearing only a bikini or swimming shorts. Being bare-chested is also illegal in some areas in Spain. You may be fined if you’re caught wearing swimwear on the seafront promenade or adjacent streets." gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/spain/safety-and-security. My understanding is these are local laws - in the UK they would be called byelaws.
    – Lag
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 10:10
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    Thanks @Lag - I didn't think to add FCDO (FCO also works), and without it I only get news sources in Google. I'm too far from being an expert in any law to use the term "byelaw" without a source to rely on, especially abroad - but I agree with you.
    – Chris H
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 10:18
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    Thanks for the knowledge. In the U.S. this would be un-enforceable because the Freedom of Speech Laws will protect symbolic speech, such as wearing or refusing to wear clothing so long as it is not done indecently. Even then, most laws preventing bare chested women make exceptions if women going topless are doing so as a form of protest (even if they are protesting the sexist nature of such indecency laws.).
    – hszmv
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 14:34

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