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Justice Department Settles Discrimination Lawsuit Against Virginia Beach Nightclub Owner

WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice today reached a settlement resolving allegations of racial discrimination with the owner and operator of Kokoamos’ Island Bar & Grill (“Kokoamos”), a restaurant and nightclub in Virginia Beach, Va. The Justice Department alleged that the nightclub discriminated against African-American patrons by denying them admission into the facility for discriminatory reasons. The settlement requires the nightclub to implement changes to its policies and practices in order to prevent such discrimination.

“It is unfortunate that in today’s society, African-Americans and other individuals still must endure discrimination and segregation in public gathering places such as restaurants and nightclubs,” said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “As long as such illegal discrimination persists, the Civil Rights Division will remain committed to vigorously enforcing this nation's civil rights laws.”

The Justice Department’s complaint, filed on Sept. 20, 2007, alleged that Barry Davis and Anchor Inn LLC, d/b/a Kokoamos’ Island Bar & Grill, violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by engaging in a pattern or practice of discrimination against prospective African-American patrons because of their race. Specifically, the suit alleged that the defendants denied African-Americans entry to Kokoamos by imposing a dress code that targeted hairstyles primarily favored by and associated with African-Americans, such as dreadlocks, cornrows and braids. The complaint alleged that defendants used this policy as a pretext for denying African-Americans admission to Kokoamos on the basis of their race. The complaint also alleged that defendants enforced otherwise neutral provisions of the dress code in a manner that discriminated against African-American patrons.

Pending court approval, the consent decree submitted to the court today will resolve this matter. The terms of the decree require Barry Davis and Kokoamos to comply with federal law by not discriminating against patrons on the basis of race; to post and enforce a non-discriminatory dress code policy; to implement a system for receiving and investigating complaints of discrimination; and to conduct monitoring to ensure that Kokoamos’ employees are acting in a non-discriminatory manner consistent with federal law.

Title II mandates that “All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation . . . without discrimination or segregation on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin.” Under Title II, the Civil Rights Division can obtain injunctive relief that changes policies and practices to remedy customer discrimination. Title II does not authorize the Division to obtain specific relief, such as monetary damages for individual customers who are victims of discrimination.

The continued enforcement of Title II has been a priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its Web site at