Men say dress code of club discriminates against blacks
On his second wedding anniversary in March, Nathaniel Williams took his wife to the New Copper Penny Restaurant & Lounge in Southeast Portland for some dancing after dinner.
While his wife went right in, the 28-year-old Portland Community College student said he was stopped at the door by a bouncer who wanted to feel the extra material at the leg of his pants.
When the bouncer could pull more than an inch, he deemed the pants 'too baggy,' said Williams, who then was told he wasn't allowed in the club.
Although it wasn't the first time it had happened, Williams said he was shocked.
'I was basically dressed for church,' he said, wearing a long-sleeved, button-down shirt and slacks. 'I was dressed Urkel-style,' he added, conjuring up the name of the geeky 1990s TV sitcom teenager who wore his pants hiked up. 'All the black guys in the community know this is the only way you're going to get in' to clubs.
Williams said he has been attempting to go to the club during a span of six years with friends but only has seen the inside once, when he went by himself.
He is among a group of 13 black men suing the nightclub, its owners and eight of its security guards, alleging the club violates federal and state anti-discrimination and civil rights statutes by having 'a goal of keeping down the number of African-American males in the New Copper Penny nightclub at any one time.'
According to the lawsuit, filed Sept. 5 in U.S. District Court in Portland, the club allegedly achieves that goal by selectively enforcing a dress code policy against black male patrons, refusing them entrance on the grounds that their pants are too baggy.
The club's owner, Saki Tzantarmas, said: 'We don't discriminate (against) any race. É But we're going to get to the bottom of it. We have a baggy clothes policy. We want to feel comfortable with whatever we have inside the club.'
Tzantarmas said he would be writing to his insurance company to look into the matter.
The lawsuit names the club, at 5932 S.E. 92nd Ave.; its owner; the corporation that owns it; and eight security personnel. It asks for attorney fees, an end to the alleged practice, $100,000 in noneconomic damages for each plaintiff and punitive damages as determined by a jury.
The plaintiffs hope the alleged injustice is resolved soon. They contend the club admits others with equally full-cut or fuller-cut pants and requires different proofs of identity from black patrons.
Lionel Klegg, a 26-year-old teacher, said he was turned away four times last fall: once for wearing shorts, twice for wearing 'baggy pants,' and once for being 'drunk,' even though he said he had just come from a school function and had not had anything to drink that evening.
Damon Miller, 25, a community liaison for the Police Activities League, said he has tried to get into the club three times with friends, most recently in March, and never once has seen the inside. Each time they said his pants were too baggy, Miller said, adding that once they also said the photo on his ID didn't match his appearance.
Miller pointed to the irony of blacks allegedly being excluded: the club plays mostly hip-hop and R&B music, yet 'we're not good enough to get in because our pants are too baggy?'
The other plaintiffs are: Jeffrey Thomas, Mitchell Jackson, Wesley Johnson, Vorshaunn Avritt, Damein Roache, Tarrance Atkins, D'Andrea Preston, Ronald Christian, Emory Bussey and Darrelle Miller.