Halloween revelers in midtown may have come across an unusual sight last night that had nothing to do with costumes. About 30 people stood across the street from the Gaslamp nightclub to protest alleged racial discrimination.
The nightclub has been steeped in controversy since September of this year. The protest, organized by the Boycott Gaslamp group, followed a discrimination lawsuit filed against the Midtown bar in federal court on Thursday. Now, Gaslamp attorney Tim Sutherland says that the club is considering filing a lawsuit of its own.
Houston rapper Bun B added his voice and support to the protest, summoning his over one million social media followers to join the cause. The end result was a group of about 30 people who stood up across the street from the club’s front entrance. The crowd waved signs and chanted things like, “Stand up! Fight back! Gaslamp shut down!” and “No discrimination!”
When asked why he supported the protest, Bun B referenced the alleged discriminatory cover fee for minorities and said, “It’s not isolated. They’ve done it time and time again and until you call people out on this kind of this thing, they’re going to continue to do it.” When asked about whether the protest had any impact on the Gaslamp’s patrons, he said, “Pretty much everyone who’s gone in has come back out, if they’ve gone in at all. Most people see what we’re doing, recognize what we’re talking about and they leave. People don’t want to be associated with an establishment like that and that’s a good thing. [Gaslamp] is laughing now but they’re going to be crying later. It’s a big, beautiful, three-story club and it's empty.”
For its part, Gaslamp erected a white tent to block the protestors' view of the entrance. At one point, a bouncer brought bottled water out to the protesters. “They just came and tried to bring us some water like they really care,” muttered Bun B on a Periscope recording. “They really don’t care.”
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Later, one of Gaslamp's black bouncers clad in a gladiator costume came outside. “They playin’ you, son,” Bun B said as he recorded video of the bouncer on Periscope.
Regarding the lawsuit, Tim Sutherland, attorney for the Gaslamp, says “It lacks any evidence. It appears to be their word against our word.” He continued, saying “They did bring this personal injury claim, essentially, asking for monetary damages due to our hiring and supervision of personnel, so I think that’s a little frivolous and will likely be dismissed. I think it shows their motives in this.”
When asked about last night’s protest, Sutherland said, “Of course, they have speech rights, but it’s very damaging to a business to stand out front and tell people not to go inside—for them to have signs saying that you’re racist. We just got to a point where we’re going to let a court decide. Now we’re going to let a jury sit down and hear all of the evidence, hear both sides and impartially decide if Gaslamp did racially discriminate against these three guys. They’re waging this social media war and judging us before we’ve gotten to go through the courts. I don’t support that. It is going to force us to bring a cause of action against them as well for defamation.”
With the months—or often years—it takes for lawsuits to go to trial, it could be a very long time before this conflict comes to an end.
Go here to see more of our photos from Friday's Gaslamp protest .