Three African-American friends were looking for a fun time when they went to a popular Texas nightclub; instead, they say, what they ended up getting was a shot of front-door racism as security asked them to pay a $20 cover charge while white partygoers were allowed to enter for free.
Brandon Ball, 32, and his friends, Dan Scarbrough, 42, and Ken Piggee, 43—all lawyers—say they refused to pay the cover at Gaslamp, a swanky lounge in Houston, and moved over to a nearby bar. From that bar, they watched Gaslamp's front door and say they saw several whites entering without being charged. The men also noted that the cover charge wasn't exclusive to blacks, saying that all minorities appeared to be charged.
"Every black person who we watched try to go in was told there was a $20 cover or that their attire was not proper," Ball wrote in a Facebook post. "One black guy was told that he could not get in because he had on Polo Boots."
After watching several groups of white people enter the club without paying a cover, Ball wrote that he tried again to enter the club and was told he would have to pay.
"This was right after I had just seen a group of white guys walk right in," he wrote.
Ball said he spoke with a uniformed policeman who appeared to be working outside the club, but to no avail. He began taking photos of the men working the front door and said that one of them told him that it would be a "problem" if he ran into the lawyer on the street.
According to the Daily Mail, Ball's Facebook post was viewed by several minority customers who said that they, too, have experienced cover charge racism at Gaslamp. Many who read the post vowed never to patronize the lounge.
Since Ball's Facebook post, Tim Sutherland, an attorney for Gaslamp, told Click2Houston.com that the venue has lost some $100,000.
Sutherland, who says the men's claims are false, recently posted a video on YouTube stating that the club's front door is colorblind, but the club will charge a cover for various reasons, and that any clubgoer who doesn't want to pay is probably "too poor."
"We do not allow our customers to dictate the terms of who we let in and who we do not," he says in the video. "We are willing to hurt your feelings by telling you that you don't fit the dress code. We will tell you that you need some girls and that this isn't bros' night out because we don't want you creeping out the girls that we already have inside.
"We will tell you that you are too cheap for our nightclub if you don't want to pay a cover, because we know that if you won't pay a cover, you're probably not going to buy any drinks," he continues.
Sutherland says that Ball and his friends were denied "because he was in a group of guys with no girls and he wanted to go to the rooftop terrace, where we wanted to charge everyone cover."
Sutherland notes in the video that the dress code and cover charge policies will be posted on the club's front door to eliminate confusion.
According to the Houston Chronicle, the Harris County Sheriff's Office and Houston Police Department stated that they would no longer provide security at Gaslamp.