S.F. officials censure gay club for bias
Christopher Curtis, PlanetOut Network
published Wednesday, June 15, 2005
San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday urging city and state agencies to take action against Badlands, a gay nightclub that a city commission determined was guilty of discriminating against African Americans.
In April, San Francisco’s Human Rights Commission ruled after a 10-month investigation that Les Natali, the club’s owner, required multiple forms of identification for some African-American customers, used discriminatory hiring practices and enforced a selective dress code that varied with the customer’s race.
Although the Board of Supervisors cannot take punitive action against the club, it urged the city attorney, the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the San Francisco Entertainment Commission “to impose penalties to the fullest extent of the law to ensure accountability for discrimination.”
If California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control determines the club violated state discrimination laws, Badlands could lose its liquor license.
Natali’s lawyer, Paul Melbostad, told the San Francisco Chronicle, “This is a shameless act by the board and it’s legally meaningless.”
Melbostad then accused the organization that pursued the case against the club, And Castro for All, as “acting like a vigilante group.”
“All it shows is that the members of the board were afraid that if they didn’t vote for the resolution, And Castro For All would accuse them of being racist,” Melbostad said.
Don Romesburg, an organizer for And Castro For All, laughed when asked about the “vigilante” label during a conversation with the PlanetOut Network.
“Clearly, we’ve constantly worked in the confines of the law,” Romesburg said. “It’s Les Natali that’s been operating outside of the law.”
“We’re delighted that the leadership of the city government supports the finding — a clear pattern of discrimination — and we hope that city and state agencies are commensurate,” Romesburg said.
Romesburg said he hoped the bar would lose its ability to serve liquor. “According to state guidelines for moral turpitude, license revocation seems appropriate,” he said. “If that means his employees will be out of a job because of Les Natali’s discrimination, then that’s something they need to bring up to their employer. The problem is not that racial discrimination has been brought to public attention — the problem is that discrimination occurred in the first place.”
Badlands employees, who asked to remain anonymous, told the PlanetOut Network that racism was not the problem. They insist the problem started with a few rowdy customers who were either not allowed entry or removed from the club and decided to punish Badlands by alleging racism.
Mark Lock, an African-American Badlands customer, described the situation with the club as “a double-edged sword.”
“My perspective is: whatever. I’m from the South. When you grow up around it, you don’t let it let you stop your life. But if they can prove what he did, they should penalize him,” Lock said, admitting he would continue going to the club.
Johnathan Woodbeck, a Badlands customer who is Caucasian, said, “I don’t think the bar should be shut down. It definitely should be thought out a little bit more. But then, I’m not for discrimination either.”