The owners of a Boston nightclub issued a public apology and agreed Friday to pay a $30,000 fine to settle allegations that it abruptly shut down an event after the annual Harvard-Yale football game because most of the attendees were black.
Some students said they were turned away from the November event after employees at the Cure Lounge complained that a large group of young black people in line would attract “local gangbangers.”
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley called the club staff’s behavior “the essence of racial stereotyping” and said it violated public accommodations and consumer protection laws.
“Massachusetts businesses cannot refuse to host events because of racial reasons,” Coakley said. “In this case, club staff made harmful and ill-conceived conclusions based on the simple fact that most of the guests were black.”
Coakley’s office and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination filed a complaint and consent judgment Friday in Suffolk Superior Court. Coakley said the complaint resolves a lawsuit against Paige Hospitality Inc., the owner and operator of Cure Lounge.
Under the consent judgment, Paige Hospitality must send its staff to annual anti-discrimination training and pay the state $30,000, which will distributed by Coakley’s office mainly to groups that support black students seeking higher education opportunities.
After court approval of the consent judgment, Paige Hospitality issued a public apology, which will remain posted on the Cure Lounge website for 30 days.
Three black graduates of Harvard College hosted the event, Coakley said. Harvard alumni, as well as graduate students from both Harvard and Yale, received invitations to buy tickets to the event. About 400 people bought tickets before the sold-out event.
The event began at 10 p.m. Nov. 20. During the next hour, guests arrived and there were no problems inside or outside of the club, but at about 11:15 p.m., Cure Lounge abruptly ended the event and told all of the guests that they needed to leave, according to the complaint.
In its apology, the club said it “does not tolerate racism.”
“The owners, managers and employees of Cure Lounge wish to extend our deepest apologies to all of those affected, both directly and indirectly, by the unfortunate events that occurred on the evening of November 20, 2010,” the apology states.
It goes on to apologize for statements made on its behalf by its public relations group in the days after the event. “Those statements were uninformed and in no way reflect the values or beliefs of the owners, managers, and employees of the Cure Lounge,” the apology states.
In a story published in The Boston Globe on Nov. 27, 2010, George Regan Jr., chairman of a Boston public relations firm, denied that the club management had done anything wrong.
Regan said the club had worked out an agreement with promoters of the event that everyone who attended the two-night event would have to show identification to prove they were affiliated with Harvard or Yale. He said that on the first night, all of the guests presented identification.
Regan told the Globe that on the second night, “There were a lot of people in line known to police and police and security circles as bad people, OK? They probably couldn’t spell the word ‘Harvard.’ ”
Regan told the Globe that the staff shut down the club because of safety concerns when guests waiting in line did not show identification and the promoters refused to cooperate with that request. He denied that club workers used the phrase “gangbangers” when speaking with alumni or students.
In a brief telephone interview Friday, Regan said he does not believe he owes anyone an apology.
“This incident happened over three months ago. I only repeated what I was told by the owners. It wasn’t until the Attorney General’s Office started to put pressure on them that the owners wanted to rewrite the facts, for obvious reasons,” Regan said.
Managers of the nightclub did not immediately return a call seeking comment Friday.
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