Tuskegee Students Say Alabama Pub Discriminates
A bar owner’s lawyer says race was not a factor in his client’s recent exclusion of a group of Tuskegee University students from a “happy hour” drinks special open only to Auburn and Southern Union students.
The Tuskegee students complained to the Auburn City Council about being denied entry last month at Bourbon Street Bar, which earlier had a dress code barring cornrow hairstyles.
Bar owner Gianfranco Frojo’s attorney, Nancy Davis, said in a letter to City Manager Doug Watson that the incident “was a result of a misinterpretation of my client’s business policy and actions during a happy hour or drink special.”
It was not a racial question because Blacks from AU and Southern Union already were inside the bar, the attorney wrote. Davis said the happy-hour restriction is used during the two-hour drink special.
“At all other times, Bourbon Street Bar is open to the general public. This decision was made solely out of concern for safety,” Davis wrote. She said the bar adopted the restrictions because Auburn and Southern Union students have been diligent about using designated drivers.
The Opelika Auburn News, which reported on the complaint against the bar last month, said Frojo declined comment.
Several months ago, Frojo had agreed to change the bar’s dress code after an Opelika resident complained that the cornrow restriction discriminated against Blacks. The bar had also prohibited bandannas, gold chains, visors, tattoos, jerseys and sleeveless and collarless shirts.
Auburn’s city attorney, Arnold Umbach Jr., said the business has the right to set its own policies “as long as they do not discriminate based on race, sex, religion or age.”
The policy also must be evenly applied.
“You can’t have a sign saying that you can’t get in without an Auburn ID, and then wink your eye and let people in without the proper ID,” he told the City Council.
The council is considering a resolution urging businesses to eliminate entrance barriers to any group regardless of affiliation and to serve customers on a first-come, first-serve basis.
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