Bayou City

U.S. Justice Department Goes After Gaslamp, Alleging Racial Discrimination

After months of controversy and a name change which didn’t seem to change much of anything, on Wednesday the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against the former Gaslamp and its owner, citing a continued pattern of discrimination against minority patrons at the Midtown club.

The lawsuit was filed against 360 Midtown (formerly Gaslamp and at the same address of 2400 Brazos), owner Ayman Jarrah (aka Dave Yurman) and Jarrah’s company Land Guardian. According to the suit, Jarrah and his company routinely discriminated against African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American patrons by charging them a fee to enter the club, while allowing white patrons in for free.

Houston Press writer Phaedra Cook reported on this in September 2015, when attorney Brandon Ball said he and two friends had attempted to enter Gaslamp and were told all three African-Americans would each have to pay a $20 cover charge while whites were allowed in for free. They eventually filed a civil suit against the club and there was a lot of interesting social media back and forth about whether Jarrah had asked an employee to pay off Ball to make it all go away. 

The story was heavily covered by the media in the days that followed, especially after Jarrah's attorney Tim Sutherland produced a video saying "we're not racists, we're just uppity assholes" in his defense of the club's practice of curating who got to walk in through its doors.

The hits just kept on coming when about ten days later, the club was shut down for several days after Gaslamp was accused of continuing to sell drinks to an already intoxicated customer.  Jarrah denied racism charges which he said were hurtful to him.

According to the lawsuit, minority customers were denied entry because of what they were wearing, while white customers, clad in similar style were freely admitted.

"For example, in October 2014, an African-American patron was denied entry for wearing a midriff shirt and high-waisted pants. Moments later, Gaslamp permitted another white patron to enter even though she was wearing a similarly-styled midriff shirt and high-waisted pants.”

According to the lawsuit in the U.S. DistrictCourt for the Southern District of Texas, “defendant Jarrah used racial slurs such as ‘n**ger” and/or other derogatory terms when referring to African-American, Hispanic and/or Asian-American patrons.”  The lawsuit asks that discriminatory practices at the club cease. 

We attempted to reach Jarrah through his club Wednesday night but there was no way to leave a message; his voice mail box was full. We will update if we hear from him. 
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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
Contact: Margaret Downing