Houston Nightclub Accused of Charging Minorities but Letting White People In Free

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Three black lawyers claim that off-duty cops running security at a swanky Houston club tried to charge them and other minorities a cover fee while letting whites in for free.

A Houston nightclub is accused of charging minority customers a cover charge but letting white patrons in for free—and some spurned bar-goers claim the racist color line has allegedly gone on for years as off-duty police acted as security.

Brandon Ball, 32, says he and two friends went to the Gaslamp, a chic lounge in the city’s Midtown neighborhood, on Sept. 11 and were asked for a $20 entrance fee. All three pals, who are black lawyers, were dressed in button-down shirts, slacks, and blazers and decided to go elsewhere.

But as they left a nearby bar a half-hour later, Ball says he saw people slipping into the Gaslamp without paying a cover. He decided to stick around for 25 minutes to see if there was any “funny business” going on, as he noted in a Facebook post about the incident that garnered more than 11,000 shares.

Ball, a defense attorney, claims Caucasian patrons breezed through the door, while black, Asian, and Latino customers were asked to step aside and wait in line, pay a $20 cover, or were turned away altogether for improper attire. One minority customer couldn’t get in because he wore Polo boots, the barristers claim.

Ball was so shocked by the alleged segregation, that he says he approached a uniformed Harris County sheriff’s deputy, who was there off-duty as club security. “I said, ‘You’re a minority yourself. How are you allowing this to happen?’” Ball recalled to The Daily Beast. “He just said, ‘They’re doing their job. I’m doing mine.’ I let him know he’s complicit.”

After Ball took photos of the scene—including of the bouncer, Mike Ross—the employee allegedly warned that Ball shouldn’t “run up on him in the streets because it would be a problem.” (Ross denied this in an interview with The Daily Beast.)

The alleged case of barroom bigotry has created days’ worth of headlines in Houston and prompted other minority customers to come out of the woodwork. A review of Gaslamp’s Yelp and Foursquare pages reveal a pattern, dating back to 2013, of allegations of the club’s racist admissions process.

On Wednesday, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office announced its deputies are banned from working at the Gaslamp in response to the controversy. A sheriff’s spokesman declined to answer further questions posed by The Daily Beast.

“The issue is… we have law enforcement officers who were there and they’re basically giving legitimacy to what these people are doing,” said Dan Scarbrough, who was with Ball the night of the encounter. “They’re enforcing it just with their presence. They’re using their uniform to enforce discriminatory practices.”

Tim Sutherland, an attorney for the Gaslamp, denied the bar was discriminating against Ball, Scarbrough and their friend Ken Piggee.

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Source: The Daily Beast | Kate Briquelet

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