Getting Past the Bouncer

Local nightclub door policies aren't always black and white

Imani Rose is a seasoned party and event planner and general Houston nightlife veteran. She's worked as a personal assistant for famous people and lived in the "cool" parts of the United States.

Rose is young but not too young, trendy but not too trendy, thin but not too thin, successful but not too successful, and, most would say, attractive. Basically, she represents the ideal demographic for most upscale nightspots in town. Except for one thing — perhaps.

Rose is black. And when she goes out, sometimes this poses a problem.

Years of experience as a party and event planner has not kept Imani Rose from feeling the sting of discrimination at Houston nightclubs such as Roosevelt Lounge.
Marco Torres
Years of experience as a party and event planner has not kept Imani Rose from feeling the sting of discrimination at Houston nightclubs such as Roosevelt Lounge.
Ray Odom outside Hudson Lounge, where he says the flood of negative feedback on social-media sites like Yelp following his Hydeout at Hudson party has "ruined" the Rice Village bar's reputation.
Marco Torres
Ray Odom outside Hudson Lounge, where he says the flood of negative feedback on social-media sites like Yelp following his Hydeout at Hudson party has "ruined" the Rice Village bar's reputation.

She's hardly alone. Every few months or so, the simmering racial tension that goes hand-in-hand with nightclubs' right to decide who they do and don't let in boils over into another episode of hurt feelings, ugly allegations and hungry headlines. In the age of social media, this cycle can happen in a matter of hours.

And then, eventually, it dies down. Until it happens again.

Most recently, the focal point of this ongoing narrative has been Hudson Lounge, the posh Rice Village nightclub that opened last fall. The night of December 28, a large group of mostly African Americans — who had reserved the club in advance for their "Hydeout at Hudson" holiday party — were suddenly and unexpectedly told Hudson was closing at 11 p.m., well before its posted closing time of 2 a.m.

Hudson management says the reason the bar shut down early is that the number of people who showed up for the event was much more than the Hydeout organizers had initially told them, and the bar did not have enough employees on duty to properly accommodate the overflow. The Hydeout people didn't think so, maintaining someone there overheard the bar's owner saying he didn't like "the look" of the crowd, and said as much on Twitter and Facebook shortly afterward.

Over the next week, more traditional media jumped on the story, hard. One of the Hydeout organizers, Ray Odom, posted his account of the evening's events on Culture­Map ("Where's the Secret Checklist When You're Black?"). KTRH afternoon radio personality Michael Berry discussed the story on his show, Houston rapper Bun B tweeted Houston Press music blog Rocks Off's report to his thousands of followers, and Fox 26's Emily Akin included the heated telephone shouting match she got into with Hudson owner Adam Kliebert in her report.

Houston nightlife's racial difficulties were back in the headlines, but what happened at Hudson Lounge — whatever happened at Hudson Lounge — wasn't news to Imani Rose.

One night, Rose took her friend and her friend's sister out to several Washington Avenue clubs. Everything was fine at Brixx and Rebels Honky Tonk, she says, but not so at nearby Roosevelt Lounge. Although Rose had been turned away from Roosevelt once before when out with three other women and three men (all African-American), she thought it would be different with an all-female group.

"No. The doorman told us we had to make reservations and that they didn't accept walk-ins," says Rose. "He then proceeded to tell the white man after us the same story, except he asked him if he had friends inside. The man said no. [The doorman] then whispered something to him, then said, 'Sorry.'

"We all walked away," she continues. "Then we see the refused white man walk around in a complete circle and enter the club. We kind of staked out on the sidewalk to make sure we weren't hallucinating. Sure enough, white person after white person entered. A black man with a group of his white friends was able to enter. It was awful and blatant discrimination. The only label for that is undeniably racism."

If what Rose recounts is true, it's unfortunate but hardly unfamiliar. When the Press's photographer went to take pictures at Roose­velt, he witnessed a Hispanic couple get turned away for not being on "the list," while the doorman let several white people in without so much as glancing at his clipboard. (At press time, messages left by the Press for Roosevelt's management via phone and e-mail had not been returned.)

In fact, when the Press reached out to club owners, managers, promoters and bouncers with reputations for fair and equal practices for their insight, their response was essentially uniform: Discrimination based on race is, if not a standard business practice, a sight less than out of the ordinary.

But breaking it down along strictly racial lines would not be entirely correct. Someone could just as easily be turned away because they look gay — which local "Guerilla Gay Bar" organizers claim happened en masse at Midtown's Union Bar in March 2009, although Union management said it was purely a capacity issue — or because the doorkeeper doesn't think they look like they have enough money to make it worth unlatching the velvet rope. People are also refused entry to nightclubs for any number of reasons that are perfectly legal, from being obviously intoxicated to not being dressed properly.

Clubs do this. They always will. Things happen, people hear about them, shake their heads, fire off some angry tweets and leave bad reviews on Yelp. Everyone will act appropriately appalled.

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132 comments
RemoveRacismHtown
RemoveRacismHtown

Latest racist practices are prevailing at funeral-turned-club, Roak on Kirby, run by Jeff Barati and Andy Aweida. These people are promoting racism and spoiling the diverse beauty of this city, by engaging in abhorrent acts, clearly evident at their establishment.They are openly committing crimes of racial discrimination under the guise of "we can refuse service to anyone..".. It is a crime, as they are enforcing this at a public place, not a private club. Jeff Barati (@jeffbarati) and Andy Aweida (@asaweida) have created a one-stop venue for racism and sex trafficking as the doormen at Roak are known for asking girls to get in bed with them if they want to enter the club.

prestonewiginton
prestonewiginton

Can anyone tell me what a business OWNER who OWNS a property cannot decide who they are going to do business with? Oh snivel rights. Snivel rights destroy property and individual rights. 

 

In Russia they have face control. It works very well. 

Ericweedhub
Ericweedhub

drugs like marijuana, music and dancing are all related to partying.Party is suppose to be fun,everybody is equal.Prejudice is always present to those people who love to party.People think of them as addict because of marijuana usage.It's sad that many people are not open minded about the medical uses for marijuana.

Jen
Jen

This past Saturday, April 30th, we had our 10-year high school reunion at Sawyer and had the upstairs clubhouse and part of the patio reserved that required a $500 food/drink minimum. The night started off well, but unfortunately, many of our guests were denied entrance after 8:00 p.m. due to a "dress code change" that occurred when the bouncers changed at the door and because we were told the UFC fight was being shown that night. Also, a cover charge was applied to some of our guests and not others (though a cover charge was never stipulated in our contract we signed).

We met our drink minimum early on and many people left Sawyer Park with hefty drink tabs. The people that were turned away at the door were in attire that was suitable for a sports bar atmosphere, and were wearing clothing that was identical to some of the other guests that were let in earlier in the evening. One of our guests in particular was an HPD officer, off duty, and was not even allowed in after showing his I.D. and credentials.

We sent our guests the link to Sawyer's website to obtain more information prior to attending the event, and nowhere on their website was the official dress code posted, nor is there a warning that cover may be charged at certain times of the night. We chose Sawyer Park because there was not a charge for our guests, and then some were forced to pay $10 a person to get in the door. This has led to several of our attendees that had to pay filing official complaints with the B.B.B. due to inconsistent business practices. Many got the feeling that the fact that the reunion was being hosted there and that they were prepared to spend good money to catch up with old friends was not an issue for the managers at the door because there were other customers they were going to let in right behind them. Basically lost business didn't matter to Sawyer Park.

When we presented the original email correspondence to one of the managers at the door (Hunter, who wouldn't give his last name only that Union Park in Austin, TX was their management company), we explained that there was no dress code information provided in regards to the guidelines for admittance. We were basically told "Sorry, nothing we can do about it, y'all should have been told".

Is this how Sawyer Park responds to paying customers? It was handled in a completely unprofessional way. We understand that businesses reserve the right to refuse service and can have dress code requirements, the problem is when the dress code is not posted or if it is inconsistent and seems to be solely based on the door guys discretion. A night that should have been a fun and memorable evening for a 10-year reunion was ruined, and Sawyer Park has officially lost the business of our class along with hundreds of our friends.

fred
fred

Last night I went to Sawyer Park bouncer said I had baggy pants ( had dockers on). So i said what the hell i'm going to go change and told my friend to bring me some jeans that were not that baggy. When back and the bouncer just look at my friends and me and starred at me hard and said I couldn't go in now because I had tennis shoes ( some retro all white keds) and said I still could not go in. And I been going to sawyer park for one and half years now and this B as bouncer says this to me, I was rather pis offed.

Houston
Houston

Similar ugly practices of discrimination based on race/color/gender still thriving at RED ROOM, with DAN GREEN as the door man.. BRAD STEARNESS may not be the GM anymore, but he might be spreading his ugly discriminating fangs elsewhere in the city, polluting the atmosphere with the abhorrent acts growing day by day at Red Room..

Sophia Green
Sophia Green

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Lilbruh3
Lilbruh3

I'm glad that someone finally brought this to light, esp within a periodical whose readers make up a good portion of patrons of these establishments. Aside from my dislike of 'fist-pumping' music (esp Akon's popcorn ass) and a crowd where EVERYONE seems to know the owner or a bartender, power-tripping bouncers and $30,000/yr millionaire d-bag crowd (all of the above mostly on Washington), Houston nightlife has definitely turned me off completely.

NOX was the straw that broke the camel's back. After 3 different attempts to get in, the very last time I was with a group of about 7 ladies who had even reserved a table and bought bottles. I STILL couldn't get in. They went in moments before and told the bouncer I was coming right behind them. He holds me up and tells me to wait...a few minutes pass by, then 10 (mind you it was freezing). I'm steady texting one of my friends inside while people are blowing past me being let in, then finally they come to the door only to be told they weren't going to let me in...well, they all grabbed their shit and stormed out. Not to mention, the table and bottles ended up being FREE, for them at least.

A friend of mine knows a bartender there, who admitted that that same doorman is known to not let 'darker' shades in. You might know him. The skinny biatch that looks like a broke ass Jay Baruchel. One of my friends is set on bustin his head to the white meat if she catches him in the streets lol

Temperature
Temperature

@ Garry Packwood:2011: We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.

1965: We reserve the right to refuse service to coloreds.

What's changed?

Gary Packwood
Gary Packwood

It is still legal for a privately owned business to post a sign that says ...We Reserve The Right To Refuse Service to Anyone, but why would they want to?

Unless they know something we don't know.

Peewee2820
Peewee2820

Bars and Clubs have been doing this for decades and decades. Now in Feb. 2011 the Houston Press thinks this is news worthy? Hilarious. Absolutely hilarious.

I am guessing the bars mentioned negatively....don't advertise with the Houston Press. Basically what the Houston Press is doing is worse than what these bars are doing.

Feliopy
Feliopy

I have faced racism cloaked as "dress code" at the Urban Bar. I am a female and actually got into an altercation where the door man pushed me. He actually put his hands on me! The management used the N word. I was livid to say the least. I called a cop friend who pretty much told me I was trespassing because they asked me to leave. There is no recourse to racism... No immediate justice and it sucks!! If it were to happen today, I would protest. Egypt has taught us the will of the people still exists.

vzag
vzag

I pretty much swore off Houston clubs after seeing blatant racism from the doormen at Bronx Bar a few years ago. I'd much rather hang out somewhere non-pretentious like Poison Girl or Grand Prize than being surrounded by ill-fitting blazers and True Religion jeans.

Houston
Houston

Congratulations houstonpress.. This article is topping the search results when someone searches "Houston nightlife racism" or similar search criteria.. Awareness is spreading.. Good work !

Well now,
Well now,

Dress code enforcement changes as the club fills up. Don't assume racism is to blame when someone inside is wearing the same clothing that's keeping you out. That person arrived earlier, when the owners were worried how much business they'd see that day. Those who insist on being fashionably late should dress in a way that compliments that behavior.

AnAubis
AnAubis

Call them out for what they are, keep your money in your pocket and tell everyone what you know about these repobates

Salvador Escobar
Salvador Escobar

While it's routine for many businesses to be as covertly discriminatory as possible, it just shows that prejudice is acceptable until it manifests overtly. Image is as important as the bottom line in any business and this holds especially true in the entertainment/hospitality niche. Arguably the best defense that Blacks, Hispanics, the GLBT community, and the nontrendy dresser have is the universal color: green. A hotspot is only such because of popular opinion. People should not only spread the word and hit the civil rights route, but they should also remember with their wallets as well. It's cliche that businesses have spin jobs/semantics on hand when they get outed because of their dirt but I must say that Amir Ansari's comments were the best comedy I've yet seen in this young 2011. Not only does he have a track record of discrimination claims, he tries to give tips as to how to call a plate of shit a sirloin steak by suggesting starting a minority scholarship after the fact, which give those claims a little more cred. It begs the question though: How would a spin job feel to him if he had been discriminated against on the heels of 9/11 or during the backlash that came when the mosque plans were announced at Ground Zero last year? Karma's more equal opportunity than any legislation.

Yelp! Yelp!
Yelp! Yelp!

I find it funny that Ray Odom thinks that 30 bad reviews on Yelp.com ruins a bars reputation. These bars don't care about these review sites and neither do the people that frequent them. The only people who read them are other souls who have had a bad experience.

All the bar cares about is credit card receipts, that's where the good reviews are and that's where it matters at the end of the day.

♬ K.Scott ℗
♬ K.Scott ℗

It's 2011 and we are still having issues with discrimination/racism? I guarantee you if them same people making up those "free-stylish" rules were to walk up to a "Black club" they wouldn't get turned away. Coincidentally, these discriminating clubs are in areas which were once predominately black neighborhoods and were built by newly freed slaves (gentrified). The best thing anyone could do whether you are Black,Hispanic,Gay etc. is to invest in your own club, set a recognizable standard for all and/or spend your money elsewhere because clearly these clubs have no humility for even being in business.

Video Proof
Video Proof

Adam Kliebert is the owner of Hudson Lounge. On Sunday, at 11:23 p.m., the night of Super Bowl Sunday, Adam Kliebert walked to our front door, yanked on the doors, then screamed "nig*er" at our door man, then flipped off the door man. Everyone knows Kliebert is a racist. If you want the video, let me know and post your information here. I will be happy to send the video to anyone who wants it. We do not want this evil racist in our neighborhood.

Matty
Matty

I pick my bars, first and foremost, based upon the music played. Next would be the drinks. Third the staff and crowd. If you don't want my money, I will do what we do in a free market, and take my business elsewhere. I've never been fascinated with VIP rooms or seeing stars. Nightclubbing should be about fun. I've been to parties at warehouses in downtown LA that were converted into sex-clubs with dancefloors for the night, dive bars and clubs in we-ho and mixed bars and clubs in all kinds of areas. For me it still goes back to the basics...music. Most of the places we went to didn't have dress codes, which makes for more fun...a melding of like minded people, some pretty, some ugly, some queens, some str8, but everyone there because they wanted to be. I've never been one for the S&M (Stand & Model) bars and clubs. Get over it and take your money elsewhere. Now, being semi-new to the area, if someone could help me find a place that plays groovy/deep house, it would be greatly appreciated. Cheers.

3rd coast
3rd coast

***BREAKING NEWS: BOUGIE BROWN PEOPLE HEAD TO BOUGIE SPOTS, PROCEED TO ENDURE BOUGIE WHITE PEOPLE RAP COMMENTS***

Wow, if only they weren't just a darker flavor of superficial marketing/"event-planning" douchery and actually wanted to be around thoughtful, meaningful people...oh well, keep livin' it up Ray and Imani!

Bert
Bert

I have to say if you are going to refer to it as "Montrose hipster hub Poison Girl" you'll have to say "Douchebag Midtown Bar and "Frat Boy ridden Village bar".I have never seen a bar in midtown or the village that has as diverse a crowd as Poison Girl. For shame

RemoveRacismHtown
RemoveRacismHtown

It is sick that these businesses use this "we reserve the right to refuse service.." clause as an ugly cover-up of their nasty and illegal practices. They are clearly abusing this clause and it is high time that the blind-and-sold city officials man-up and do their job and teach these businesses their real place by fining them, and even closing them if they continue to engage in discriminatory and inconsistent door policies..

Houston
Houston

Is discrimination like this legal? Why is our city so blind and ignorant to this disease corrupting our society?

RandomLurker
RandomLurker

So if you hate all these $30k millionaire, d-bag bars, why do you try to get in to them?

Also, with an attitude like "bustin his head to the white meat if she catches him on the streets" who would let you in any where, regardless of color?

Houston
Houston

You are right. houston nightlife is a total turn-off.. In other cities you don't have to think and plan where and when to go out and you always have a good time.. in Houston, it is not the case.. it is pathetic and it is shameful.. worry about everything from parking, and if you park, then worry if you'll get in the club or not.. The City does nothing to curd this growing discrimination and the morons who run these establishments are actively engaging in abhorrent acts.. Shame on the city of houston and shame on the officials and cops who do nothing but pretend to be blindfolded..

RandomLurker
RandomLurker

The verbage and the attitude behind it. For the most part.

I'm not saying racism never happens but I've been to some of these bars and every time I've seen blacks, asians and latinos having a ball.

Some white people get turned away too. They just don't blame their skin color. You get turned down, so what. Go some where else and try again another day.

Houston
Houston

Right, but there is a clause that forbids these places to selectively apply that rule.. Also denying entry is not denying service..

Houston
Houston

And regarding your ignorant comment that the bars in question don't advertise with Houston Press.. here is one link to correct you: Hudson Lounge: http://www.houstonpress.com/lo... Red Room: http://www.houstonpress.com/lo... Sanctuary Lounge: http://www.houstonpress.com/lo...Lots of mentions about Ei8ht http://www.houstonpress.com/se...

So the point is, Houston Press and other people appreciate these places for bringing something new to Houston nightlife, but at the same time, they also bring out the ugly, dirty side of these places that are practicing discrimination in a rampant manner..

Houston
Houston

Either you are affiliated with the said venues that practice discrimination or have never experienced it yourself.. Yes, bars have been doing this for decades.. But the problem is when a very large % of these bars start engaging in such acts.. Almost every other club on Washington Ave practices such discrimination, and also now the new bars/lounges in Upper Kirby area.. The number of such hideous places is becoming a norm rather than an exception and hence it is time that these places be taught some lessons..

Houston
Houston

Yes, you are right.. and it sad that your cop friend couldn't justify the racism and support you.. If that incident was recorded, I am sure you would have had an edge.. First of all: you were not trespassing, you just went to a club that is 'public' and welcomes people. So even though they reserve the right to refuse service, they cannot enforce this selectively on discriminatory factors.. Simple argument: ask them the question: "Why am I not allowed to enter?" They cannot give crap about reserving the right to refuse service.. Read some more articles on this, and even this post mentions this in the beginning,, Example: "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," http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/st...Also.. I know most girls always carry a camera.. so invoke your investigating attitude.. :) take a video, record the conversation and sue these people..

Houston
Houston

Yes, that's one way to go about it.. But the problem with this approach is: we are silently promoting this kind of discrimination by boycotting these venues.. because lets face it: unless "everyone" boycotts these places, it won't have any impact at all, other than these kind of articles and negative publicity.. What is really needed is a collective effort to expose these places..

Houston
Houston

And how do you explain the many incidents where someone is denied on the basis of dress code, and soon after someone else walks in without being questioned about the dress code..

AnAubis
AnAubis

Not true. People read the reviews to get insight into the experience. Only white supremacist or their minions of other races would tolerate this type of racism. There are a lot of non-whites trying to out white the white man. So sick...........

Houston
Houston

You are right. These bars don't care about the yelp reviews as their only motive is to make money by engaging in acts of discrimination. Wouldn't it be nice if some day, hopefully soon, these bars get trapped in their own dirty game and are ordered to compensate each and every patron against whom they committed hideous act of discrimination based on race, color, or gender. Yelp reviews don't matter, but when someone from outside the city visits Houston, they get a bad reputation for the city in general. Hence, these places are not only liable to compensate to the club goers, but also should be fined heavily by the City Of Houston for actively defaming the image of Houston on discriminatory grounds.

Kyle
Kyle

Send to kylejack AT gmail DOT com, I'd like to see.

Houston
Houston

If you have such proof, then what are you waiting for? Submit it to the City of Houston and expose Mr Kliebert's dirty face.. I am sure the press would love to support you.. And this will come as a harsh warning to other places in Houston that engage in such behavior such as Red Room, Ei8ht, Roosevelt, Sanctuary, Manor etc.

prestonewiginton
prestonewiginton

So the business owner does not own the property and as an individual they can not decide who they want to do business with? Talk about denying individual rights!!!! TYRANT! 

prestonewiginton
prestonewiginton

I have been denied entry at a majority black bar before. So don't say cracker ain't never been discriminated against. But think about it. Why would I even want to go to a black bar? It is their territory. All you alls crying about is that you can't invade white territory. Quit being a cry baby and respect the owners the decisions and move on. 

clientele
clientele

its not the clubs themselves but the people who the club "caters to" that dictate this.

Yelp! Yelp!
Yelp! Yelp!

The day you get a handout from a nightclub because they didn't let you in will be the day we all go in spend it in the magical forest with giant fluffy bunny's just past the unicorn valley......I think what I am trying to say is that is probably a long way off.

Maybe you should set your sights a little lower as most of the city officials get elected on platforms of healthcare, unemployment & budget reform...I have yet to see someone get elected due to their views on nightclub equality.

Jesus,
Jesus,

It is so utterly disgusting that you describe this petty bullshit to revolution given the truly historic events since January 25th. Get a life.

Houston
Houston

It's not about 92, or 93, or 94.. comments.. Each comment is spreading awareness.. And this is just one of the beginning steps.. Finally we are seeing more coverage on such issues in the Press and I am sure there are plans to achieve this on a larger scale, where more people get involved and the City gets to know about the ugly practices that are flourishing in the name of discriminatory upscale attitudes.. Yes, this thread may die soon, or it may ignite another fire so that people don't tolerate such acts and work together to bring the culprits to justice...

Yelp! Yelp!
Yelp! Yelp!

But you see it's not hundreds of thousands....it's 92 comments (soon to be 93 I am sure), on an article that while important and to the point will in a few days will be pushed under another article that the Press bring out about another person's hard luck story. In the end apathy becomes a security blanket.

The only way to stop these things is to not give them your cash. Cash pays for electricity and rent. Without those....no club. Don't consume their product. They close. You win.

Houston
Houston

And if you think that the City can do nothing - you are mistaken.. When hundreds of people email to the Office of Mayor of Houston, it can't go unnoticed.. Proof is everywhere.. the voice of hundreds of thousands of people subjected to discrimination on any ground..

Houston
Houston

Again, you are absolutely right.. no one gets elected on their views of nightclub equality.. and you know why? coz' there is lack of numbers.. And now, when finally people will stand up to this bullshit, collect evidence, and the Press will spread more and more awareness and also get involved in collecting evidence and exposing these places eventually to the extent of penalizing them,.. only then we can take a step forward in this realm as well..I am sure no club owner wants to get sued by hundreds of patrons over discriminatory reasons.. And let me assure you, once the numbers get large, it is like a revolution set out to bring change.. and no jury can deny that, esp when some members of the jury have themselves experienced this ugly practice..Sooner or later, these places have to pay ..

 
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