Nightspot with Racially Discriminatory Policy Settles Case with DOJ; ACLU Lawsuit Pending

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
February 12, 2008 12:00 am

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Virginia Beach, VA—The Department of Justice announced today that it has reached a settlement resolving allegations of racial discrimination against the owner of Kokoamos Island Bar, Grill and Yacht Club in Virginia Beach. Kokoamos at one point banned patrons who wore braids, twists, cornrows, or dreadlocks.

The settlement with DOJ does not affect a separate lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Virginia on behalf of two African-Americans who were barred from entering Kokoamos because they wore dreadlocks.

According to a press release from DOJ, Kokoamos’ owner Barry Davis will post and enforce a non-discriminatory dress code policy, will implement a system for receiving and investigating complaints of discrimination and will conduct monitoring to ensure that Kokoamos’ employees are acting in a non-discriminatory manner consistent with federal law.

“We were pleased when the Department of Justice decided to join us in fighting race discrimination in the Virginia Beach club,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “And we are pleased again now that the first steps toward resolution of this issue have taken place.”

The ACLU represents Myron Evans and Kimberley Hines. In June of 2006, Mr. 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, Ms. Hines was with three Caucasian friends when she was also denied entry to Kokoamos because of her dreadlocks.

The Kokoamos policy banned excessively baggy pants and Timberland boots. After complaints of discrimination had become public, local television station WAVY TV, Channel 10, 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 Mr. Davis in October 2006 urging him to rescind his racially discriminatory policy. The letter also threatened legal action if no changes were forthcoming. Mr. Davis declined to take action, so the ACLU filed a lawsuit in January 2007.

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