Thongage: brutal, bizarre or brilliant?

I first came across this story last week. It ran in the NT News and tells of a Darwin restaurant owner fed up with people wanting to dine wearing thongs, (the footwear not the bum floss). I planned to do a post on this – a light hearted look at the evolution and progression of thongs, from beach wear to formal dining. But after I read the entire story I became enraged, so angry – that I had to turn off my computer.

30 minutes worth of scowling later (while my poor husband listened to me journo-bash) I decided to write the post on what I really thought……

Then – about 3 hours after completing the post, I realised I was over reacting. It was a cyclone cindy moment – about a category 3 – and so I decided to edit somewhat, to save myself another defamation lawsuit.

Before continuing – here is the story that ran in the NT News on-line on Thursday 31 March:

A DARWIN restaurant is charging patrons $10 for wearing thongs while they dine.  The “thongage” charge is announced in a sign on the door of John Spellman’s Tramontana restaurant on McMinn St.

Last night Mr Spellman said the “campaign” was setting the tone for his “boutique” restaurant. “It’s a formal restaurant – tablecloths, napkins. I wear shoes and socks,” he said.

“There’s actually a button on the register. I just put it on the bill – you don’t have to argue about it. Two lamb chops, one thongage.

“Why not have somewhere in town where people can dress up and be decent … a lady comes in dressed to the nines, guy’s wearing T-shirt and shorts.”

The article continued.  I won’t insert all of it because it’s rubbish.

What really confused me, is why the journalist decided to combine the story of an eccentric man charging thongage, with quotes from locals – citing café or restaurant DIS-service, as if the two are equally as bad!  

Sorry, but you can’t compare a guy’s peculiar attempt at trying to maintain a sophisticated vibe, to  a water jug being brought to a table containing a cigarette butt. The two references don’t even belong in the same Adam Sandler movie, let alone the same newspaper article.

Someone pass the scissors, because here is where my knickers got in a great big knot!  The story ended like this:


A GROUP decided not to eat at Indian eatery Garam Masala after being told the corkage charge was $6. The cafeteria at Royal Darwin Hospital charges 30c for a serve of soy sauce to go with a $1.20 dim sim.


Try paying for all the fees that come with having a liquor license, and then NOT charging corkage when your customers bring their own.   Try paying the staff to clean the wine glasses and then polish them – the very glasses that held the wine that you did not charge corkage for.   Try running a hospital café where hundreds of people eat every day, and give free soy sauce to every person that wants it. Do you realise what your bill for soy sauce would be at the end of the month?

I won’t name the journo and wish him harm, like I did in my original outburst, but I question the journalist’s commitment to objectivity.  The article failed to mention that the ‘thongage’ money goes to charity. I guess that snippet wasn’t parallel with the rest of his ‘cafe bashing’ angle.

It was a one-sided story for the sake of sensationalism. Although seriously, how much credibility should I bestow on a journalist or editor who makes “DOG KILLED BY YOWIE” a front page headline…  I think it might be time for him to go and cash his reality check.

Berating done.  Back to the story.

So John Spellman is Darwin’s own fashion police, fining those who fail to abide by his rules of regalia, his laws of footwear.


It’s an interesting solution and incidentally, I think it’s genius. Not only has he and his restaurant scored MAJOR free publicity, but he’s doing something which in Darwin is almost impossible to do: Enforce a standard to create a more sophisticated atmosphere.  And if you think it won’t work, then think back to a road that you’ve been caught speeding on.  Ten bucks says you won’t do it again. Not there anyway.

I know what you’re thinking… Why doesn’t he simply turn thong-wearers away?  Let me explain.  This is Darwin.  He might end up with empty tables. Every second person wears thongs.  The cliché is alive and well.

It’s no lie that Darwin is a unique place. Not only because it’s landscapes and wildlife are some of the most amazing and beautiful I have seen on tropical waters, but also for its people and their lifestyle.

And part of that lifestyle is the laid back, easy going nature of many locals. That and the fact that Darwin is largely a tourist destination, means thongs are a popular choice of footwear. Even I – who have always felt uncomfortable walking on rubber, have succumbed. And despite the fact that there are some very fancy looking thongs around, no matter how much they sparkle, they’re not for everywhere.


Cyclone Cindy’s Guide to Wearing Thongs (on your feet). 

Gym No
Shopping Yes
Beach Of course
Visiting friends Yes
Trackside / Races Sorry – No
Fishing / Boating Yes
Pub meal Yes
Upmarket restaurant No
Wedding Depends
Ball / formal event No
Construction site No
The office Probably not
Home Yes
Casual café Yes


So while charging your customers a fine for choosing to go against a dress code might seem bizarre, dress standards have been around forever. I’ve seen plenty of people get rejected from venues for inappropriate attire. It’s the venue’s right to determine how a customer dresses. Studies have been done. What we wear has a huge impact on how we behave. It’s not about a venue being snobby. It’s about a venue wanting no fights, or polite and courteous patrons who won’t graffiti, or steal or break stuff. 


It is well within a business’s right to turn away a customer. Not recommended – but not against the law either. Are there people I would ‘refuse entry’ into my house? Absolutely! Not even if they paid me $10.

So seriously, is John Spellman THAT crazy?

In the on-line version of the article, a highlighted line read: Is the ‘thongage’ charge justified? – leave your comment below. 

Reading some of the comments was like the garbage tip for my eyes. Like this stinky remark:
Mate its Darwin, Its Territory and its Territorian lifestyle. If you don’t like it, Leave it. Get
out of here we don’t need you. I’ll spend $100 on bait rather than paying $10 thongage for a
crap food. You don’t belong here mate , you are wasting your time and our time

Or this one, also grammatically incorrect:
Sanctimonious John Spellman should not be so arrogant as to the standard of his patrons attire.

I think this one was my favourite, summed it up 100%:




  1. spellman · July 5, 2010

    i have not seen a pair of thongs in this place at night since the thong tree bloomed.
    love john

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