Over 40 people in steampunk garb (Victorian dress meets sci-fi/time traveler) were turned away from the Westfield Plaza Mall in Carlsbad on February 9 — mall security told them to leave because they were breaking the mall’s “code of conduct.”
The code states that “wearing apparel that disguises, obscures or conceals the face” is not allowed.
Lisa Vaca, one of those costumed, stated, “Since none of us had any part of our faces obscured, we respectfully pointed it out to the three security guards, and then their new reason for asking us to leave was a mix of ‘this is private property so we can refuse entrance to anyone,’ and ‘a group of this number needs to call ahead first to get permission,’ and, our favorite, ‘recently we had a big problem with a vampire group who showed up here….’
Vaca further went on to state, “When they told us to leave, they didn't even give us the option to ‘Please remove your hats and other costume-type items if you want to stay.’ They just walked up to a couple of our wonderfully dressed women and said, ‘You have to leave!’”
Vaca told security that this same group went to the carousel at the Westfield Mall in El Cajon a few months ago and was welcomed with open arms.
Sandra Deakins, another steampunk participant, said she felt “corralled” and given the “ushering effect.” As they streamed out of the mall, the group was greeted by three Oceanside police patrol cars and three police officers.
“The police told us that they were just answering a call from mall security and wanted to make sure the group was nice folks,” said Vaca.
Steampunk Kim Keeline said, “We were told it was to keep out the riffraff. In various conversations with the security and the police, this was variously described as gangs, people in vampire costumes, a group that tried to come ride the carousel last week while wearing horsehead masks, and other such riffraff."
Others told me that security in golf carts followed some of the participants to their cars. The mall likely lost a lot of potential shoppers that day, as many said they had planned to do some store browsing after riding the carousel. Some told me that they will never return to this mall to shop.
When I called mall security to get a statement on February 10, the person on the other end of the phone told me they weren’t allowed to comment on the incident.
When I called mall management, I spoke to their operations manager, who asked to remain anonymous. When he said, “It was probably a misunderstanding. All Westfield Malls have the same code of conduct policy.”
I then told him this same group had no problem at the El Cajon Westfield Mall. He said, “No comment,” and wouldn’t answer any more questions. He told me to call the next day and speak to their district general manager, which I did.
District general manager Becky Smith couldn’t or wouldn’t come to the phone: her secretary said she was either in meetings or conference calls after I tried three times to reach her.