Department of Justice Joins ACLU of Virginia in Filing Lawsuit against Nightspot with Racially Discriminatory Policy

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
May 24, 2007 12:00 am

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VIRGINIA BEACH — The Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Barry Davis, owner of the Kokoamos Island Bar, Grill and Yacht Club, charging that the Virginia Beach nightspot discriminates against African-Americans by banning patrons who wear braids, twists, cornrows, or dreadlocks.

The DOJ lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Norfolk last Thursday, comes nine months after the ACLU of Virginia filed a similar lawsuit on behalf of two African-Americans, both of whom were barred from entering Kokoamos because they wore dreadlocks. DOJ does not represent individual plaintiffs, but the interests of the U.S. government.

“We’re very pleased that the Department of Justice decided to join us in fighting race discrimination in Virginia Beach,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “If it wasn’t already obvious to everyone concerned that this is an important case in the ongoing battle for racial justice in Virginia, it should be now.”

The ACLU represents Myron Evans and Kimberley Hines. In June of last year, Evans was with a group of about ten friends – one of whom was a Caucasian woman with spiked hair dyed black and platinum – who sought entry to Kokoamos. The woman with spiked hair was allowed to enter but not Evans. Evans then asked to speak to the owner, and was told by Davis, “There are other places that cater to your kind of crowd.”

In August 2006, Hines was with three Caucasian friends when she was also denied entry to Kokoamos because of her dreadlocks.

The Kokoamos policy also bans excessively baggy pants and Timberland boots. A local television station, WAVY TV, Channel 10, later aired a news report in which two persons wearing the prohibited boots and loose-fitting pants tried to enter the club. One was African-American and the other Caucasian. The Caucasian was allowed in, but not the African-American.

The ACLU sent a letter to Davis in October 2006 urging him to rescind his racially discriminatory policy. The letter also threatened legal action if no changes were forthcoming. Davis declined to take action, so the ACLU filed a lawsuit on January 18, 2007.

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