KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CN) – An entertainment and shopping district in downtown Kansas City discriminates against black patrons by enforcing an illegal dress code barring baggy clothing and long shirt tails, according to a $20 million class action in Federal Court. The discrimination is allegedly so well known that the so-called “power and light district” has been dubbed the “power and white district.”
The lead plaintiffs are four black men who say they were denied entrance to KCLive!, a one-block area with bars and an entertainment stage, because of their race.
They say the district’s operators — The Cordish Companies, Makers Mark and Entertainment Concepts Investors — tried to disguise their discriminatory policy by claiming to be enforcing an illegal dress code.
District employees allegedly told the plaintiffs that they had been barred from KCLive! for violating the district’s ban on long shirt tails, baggy shorts and long necklaces.
The men claim they “were not wearing baggy clothes,” adding that “they noticed several Caucasian patrons who were dressed in a similar fashion that they were and they were not denied entry or asked to leave.”
In 2008, just after the district opened, Kansas City “received more discriminatory complaints regarding dress codes than in the previous 11 years combined,” the class action claims.
The complaints prompted the city to pass an ordinance restricting KCLive! from enforcing the dress code, but the discrimination allegedly continued.
Using similarly dressed “test patrons,” the city discovered that white patrons were admitted to the district, while black patrons and other minorities were generally sent away, the lawsuit states.
The plaintiffs say their exclusion “is not simply by accident.”
They accuse the district’s operators of excluding black musical artists and selecting artists who “are not popular within the African-American community.”
Kirk Proctor, Robert Jackson, Jerome Porter and Marcus McMiller seek at least $20 million in exemplary and punitive damages. They also want the district to stop “unlawful discrimination against consumers on the basis of race.”
They are represented by Lawrence Williamson.