Policy prohibiting braids, twists, cornrows discriminates against African-American patrons

Virginia Beach, VA -- In a letter sent today to Barry Davis, the owner of Kokoamos Island Bar, Grill and Yacht Club, the ACLU of Virginia demanded that the Virginia Beach nightspot rescind a policy of barring hairstyles worn almost exclusively by African-American patrons.
Kokoamos denies entry to anyone wearing, braids, twists, cornrows and dreadlocks -- all of which are styles traditionally worn by African Americans. The ACLU argues that the policy violates the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits public accommodations from discriminating on the basis of race.
The ACLU represents Kim Hines, an African-American woman who was refused entry to the club in August because she wears her hair in dreadlocks. When she complained to the club the following day, she was advised to visit the owner’s “urban” club in Newport News.
“It is very troubling that a business open to the public in 2006 would seek to ban hairstyles associated with a particular race, creed, or ethnicity,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “The suggestion that people with different hairstyles should attend different kinds of bars does not square with the values of equal rights reflected in our society, especially when the hairstyles in question are so closely associated with race.”
In today’s letter, ACLU of Virginia legal director Rebecca Glenberg asks Davis to “provide immediate written assurances that individuals will no longer be barred from any of your clubs by reason of a hairstyle associated with a particular race, religion, or ethnicity. If such assurances are not forthcoming, Ms. Hines will not hesitate to pursue all avenues to enforce her legal rights.”
Big Daddy’s, a nightclub in Richmond’s Shockoe Slip, recently dropped its policy of denying entrance to persons with braids, cornrows or dreadlocks, after clients and civil rights advocates claimed that the policy discriminated against African Americans.
“The owners of Big Daddy’s immediately recognized the racist aspects of their policy banning braids, cornrows and dreadlocks, and voluntarily changed their policy,” added Willis. “We are hoping that Kokoamos will follow suit.”
A copy of Glenberg’s letter to Davis is available at http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/20061005-VA-Beach-Hair-Discriminaiton.pdf.

Contacts: Kent Willis or Rebecca Glenberg - 804/644-8022