Woman accuses Washington bar manager of racism

December 22, 2010 2:45:50 AM PST
A woman says her birthday celebration took a humiliating turn when the lounge where she was celebrating did something not only humiliating, but also illegal.

She says it happened this weekend at the Diem Lounge on Nett Street, which is near Washington Ave and Shepherd.

She and her friends say they've been discriminated against by clubs on Washington in the past and that's why she took extra steps to make sure it wouldn't happen on her birthday. Instead, she says she was offended once again and shocked by the club's candor.

Though the night ended in smiles for Arati Shah on her 34th birthday, it certainly didn't start that way.

"I was really hurt," she said.

She says she made reservations at Diem Lounge near the Washington corridor more than a week in advance.

"I just wanted everyone there with no troubles," Shah said.

She was very specific about whom and how many of her friends would be coming.

"I told them there would be 50-plus Indian people coming," she said.

But when last Saturday night arrived, Shah says most of her guests were stuck outside, and then, she says, she was told why.

"The owner finally said I'm not letting this many Indian people into the club right now," Shah said.

Her friends say they all heard similar explanations.

"I heard your group isn't diverse enough, and we've met our quota tonight," Shah's friend, Megan VanZandt, said.

So they turned around and left.

"It's disgusting, I'm just shocked. I've never seen it," Shah's friend, Stuart Gibson, said.

"I will never come back here," said Alejandra Guarini, Shah's friend.

Management denies the racial comments and says the male-to-female ratio was the issue. There were too many men in the party, not enough women.

The manager declined an on-camera interview but did say "At the end of the day, it's a private business and we have the right to refuse service to anyone."

Not so fast, says attorney Geoff Berg.

"If it is a place that generally welcomes the members of the public, then the owners of that establishment -- people who run that establishment -- can't decide that they're going to favor people of a certain race over another," Berg said.

"He said, 'You didn't tell me that this many of your crowd was going to be brown,'" Shah said.

Shah is still shocked by what she says she was told. She wants to take legal action.

"This is wrong; it's a civil rights issue," she said.

She still was able to have some birthday fun, just somewhere else.

Shah and her friends took their party to another nightclub they say was more inclusive. The manager also told us they tried to accommodate them but ultimately, their feelings are hurt they didn't get in.


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