ACLU Tells Virginia Beach Bar to Rescind Racially Discriminatory Hair Policy or Face Legal Action
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Policy Prohibiting Braids, Twists, Cornrows Discriminates Against African-American Patrons
VIRGINIA BEACH, VA — In a letter sent today to Barry Taylor, the owner of Kokoamos Island Bar, Grill and Yacht Club, the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia demanded that the Virginia Beach nightspot rescind a policy of barring hairstyles worn almost exclusively by African-American patrons.
“It is very troubling that a business open to the public in 2006 would seek to ban hairstyles associated with a particular race, creed, or ethnicity,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “The suggestion that people with different hairstyles should attend different kinds of bars does not square with the values of equal rights reflected in our society, especially when the hairstyles in question are so closely associated with race.”
Kokoamos denies entry to anyone wearing, braids, twists, cornrows and dreadlocks — all of which are styles traditionally worn by African Americans, the ACLU said. The ACLU argues that the policy violates the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits public accommodations from discriminating on the basis of race.
The ACLU is representing Kim Hines, an African-American woman who was refused entry to the club in August because she wears her hair in dreadlocks. When she complained to the club the following day, she was advised to visit the owner’s “urban” club in Newport News.
In today’s letter, ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg asks Taylor to “provide immediate written assurances that individuals will no longer be barred from any of your clubs by reason of a hairstyle associated with a particular race, religion, or ethnicity. If such assurances are not forthcoming, Ms. Hines will not hesitate to pursue all avenues to enforce her legal rights.”
Big Daddy’s, a nightclub in Richmond’s Shockoe Slip, recently dropped its policy of denying entrance to persons with braids, cornrows or dreadlocks, after clients and civil rights advocates claimed that the policy discriminated against African Americans.
“The owners of Big Daddy’s immediately recognized the racist aspects of their policy banning braids, cornrows and dreadlocks, and voluntarily changed their policy,” added Willis. “We are hoping that Kokoamos will follow suit.”
The text of the ACLU’s letter to Taylor follows.
October 5, 2006
Barry Davis, Owner
Kokoamos Island Bar, Grill and Yacht Club
2100 Marina Shores Dr.
Virginia Beach, VA 23451
Dear Mr. Davis:
I write on behalf of Kim Hines, a would-be patron who was turned away from Kokoamos because of your policy against braids, dreadlocks, cornrows and twists. Because this policy unlawfully discriminates on the basis of race, I ask that you immediately repeal it.
Ms. Hines – who is African American and wears her hair in dreadlocks – and three white friends went to Kokoamos in August of this year. A security guard told Ms. Hines that she could not enter because the club did not allow braids, twists, cornrows, or dreadlocks. A security guard told one of Ms. Hines’ friends that she was welcome to come in, but that he could not allow “that” (indicating Ms. Hines) to enter.
As I am sure you’re aware, the hairstyles prohibited at Kokoamos are all traditionally worn by African Americans. As a result, prohibiting these styles has the effect of excluding a certain segment of the population based on race, in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000a.
Additionally, it is my understanding that this hairstyle policy is not in place at another of your clubs, The Alley, in Newport News, which has a predominantly African-American clientele. Indeed, when Ms. Hines complained to your management about the treatment she had received, it was suggested that she go to that club instead. The de facto segregation promoted by this differential policy also violates the Civil Rights Act.
Accordingly, please provide immediate written assurances that individuals will no longer be barred from any of your clubs by reason of a hairstyle associated with a particular race, religion, or ethnicity. If such assurances are not forthcoming, Ms. Hines will not hesitate to pursue all avenues to enforce her legal rights.
Should you wish to discuss this matter, please do not hesitate to call me at (804) 644-8080. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Rebecca K. Glenberg
cc: Sandra D. Norman, Director, Virginia Human Rights Council
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