KANSAS CITY, Missouri - The dress code at the Kansas City Power & Light District is once again under the spotlight, as four black men have filed a class action lawsuit claiming they were discriminated against when a security guard denied them entrance into a district bar.
The Kansas City Star reports three of the men went to the downtown entertainment district in August 2009 and were allowed into the KCLive Block, the common area in the middle of several bars and restaurants, but were not allowed to enter Makers Mark .
The suit says a security agent said one man’s shirt was too long and two others were wearing baggy clothes. A fourth man says he went to the district in September 2008 and was also denied access.
In both incidents, the men say they saw similarly-dressed white men that were allowed inside.
The suit, filed by Williamson Law Firm, LLC, names the Cordish Company – the owner of the district, an affiliated company and Maker's Mark. They are seeking at least $20 million in damages.
"Williamson believes that the dress code adopted by the Cordish Company and its affiliates has been primarily enforced against minorities with the underlying intent of maintaining a mostly Caucasian patronage," the firm said in a statement posted on the Star's website .
The statement also says the suit alleges physical assault against the plaintiffs at the hands of security personnel employed by the Cordish Company.
Nearly since it opened in 2007, the district's dress code and its enforcement has been scrutinized. Last year, the Kansas City Council passed an ordinance regulating dress codes and what they could and could not enforce.
Even so, the lawsuit is not the first formal complaint against the district.
Last November, seven black family members filed a Charge of Discrimination complaint with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights against the district, saying they were not allowed to enter Mosaic Lounge because of how they were dressed.
A report issued later that month said the district’s dress code was not uniformly enforced.
In May, Kansas City human relations officials said Cordish had quietly relaxed portions of the dress code and had taken steps to address claims of unfair treatment.
Nick Benjamin, Executive Director of the Kansas City Power & Light District, issued this written response on Wednesday:
“The Cordish Companies are not a proper party to this litigation. The Power & Light District welcomes millions of guests of every nationality, race and ethnicity every year and looks forward to continuing to welcome visitors to Kansas City’s vibrant downtown. The dress codes in the district are recommended as best practices by city agencies and legally permitted. The allegations contained in the lawsuit are baseless, and we are confident that the court will agree.”
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