A bar in Downtown Raleigh is being accused of discriminating against non-white patrons. The news has been making the rounds on the local and national blogosphere since North Carolina Central University Professor Philip Christman posted on his blog about the experience of Jonathan Wall, one of his now-Harvard-bound students, at the Downtown Sports Bar & Grill on Glennwood Ave.
Via Christman, Wall writes in part:
As the story begins, on last Saturday night around 12:30am, I and 2 other friends went to Downtown Sports Bar and Grill off of Glennwood Avenue. The night got interesting as soon as we got to the door, and the bouncer told us “you need a membership to come in tonight, I’ve never seen you here before.” My friend Chris and I looked at each other in curiosity, knowing that the establishment was a bar and not a club, and that people in line before us walked right in after showing their ID. The only difference between those people and my friends and I was our race. Still, we stood at the door in bewilderment asking “What?” as he further tried to explain that we weren’t going to be able to come in because of our “non-member” status. However, as he was explaining this, a police officer walked up to where he was standing to tell him something unrelated. As soon as he caught sight of the officer beside him, he said “Never mind, y’all go ahead.” This was the first interesting ordeal of the night, but not the last.
We were downstairs for all of ten minutes, when my two friends dispersed. My friend Chris went to the bathroom, and my friend Kristin went upstairs to get some fresh air. Only a few seconds after they left, what appeared to be a bartender came from behind the bar to clean drinks off of one of the tall bar tables that was near me. After he cleaned the table, it looked as if he was headed back behind the bar when he came up to me and said “Either buy a drink or leave right now.” Again shocked, I replied “I’m just waiting for my friend to come back from the bathroom.” He responded, “I don’t care, get a drink or leave right now.” I said “Okay” and began texting. He walked away from me, then went and sat with his back to the bar as he stared me down. Being non-confrontational, I looked towards the bathroom, waiting to see my friend come out so that we could leave. I also took notice of how many of the people surrounding the bar and the club area didn’t have drinks in their hands. I felt as if I was singled out. The common denominator, again, was that I was the only black person around. After staring me down for about 30 seconds, he walked back over and said “Are you going to buy a drink, or are you going to leave?” I replied, “As soon as my friend comes from the bathroom.” Before I cold utter another word, he grabbed my right wrist and my left arm and threw them behind my head in an effort to constrain me, although I was speaking to him a calm and non-aggressive tone and didn’t once even gesture. He then used excessive force to push me through the crown and out of the club while I was still in this “headlock” of sorts, before pushing me out of the front door. As soon as he grabbed me, I let my body go limp because with the degree of force he was already using, I didn’t want him to think I was trying to fight back. I accepted that he was on an ego-trip, and let him guide me through the club in this position before pushing me out. I was completely shocked and more saddened that this was happening than angry.
You can head over to Christman’s blog to read Wall’s full account.
The experience has resulted in an organized effort via Facebook to have the bar stop its discriminatory practices. The group has more than 4,000 members. New Raleigh points out bar manager Todd Chriscoe’s previous brushes with the law. And, according to Jezebel.com, several local media are planning on coverage and a protest is planned for this Saturday.