Racism And Houston Clubs: The Nightfly's Story

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Is there racism within Houston's nightlife community?

Of course there is. It's certainly not early 20th-century racism, but it's still very much there.

In three-plus years of writing the Nightfly column for the Houston Press, I've only ever had one club owner or manager go on record as saying he wouldn't mind terribly if black people didn't bother to visit his bar, and I've asked some form of that same question to just about all of the owners or managers of clubs where it needed to be asked.

The guy who answered yes was black, and he requested that his last name not be used.

As far as recent Houston nightlife goes, racism exists as this sort of ill-intentioned but expected thing. It's not a "necessary evil," exactly, but more an "understood evil."

Things will happen, and people will hear about them, shake their heads, leave bad reviews on Yelp and everyone will act appalled. And then it will happen again and again. Because even we know something to be true, there's a fairly high burden of proof required to officially pin the "racist" note on someone's lapel.

And that's where it gets icky.

As far as I can tell, two variables have always made it impossible to conclusively verify that a club's management/ownership is racist when they're saying otherwise:

  • Someone denying you entrance to a club doesn't automatically make that person a racist. Rejection and racism are not the same thing. Maybe you showed up with one too many guys. Maybe the doorman didn't fully understand the thoughtful irony behind your dirty pair of 1994 Reebok Kamikazes like the doorman at Poison Girl would have. Or maybe you're just not attractive enough. Did you ever think of that? There are a lot of reasons a doorman can give for not letting someone in, and they're almost all subjective, which means they're impossible to argue against.
  • Not very many clubs have a nice, neat mixture of races in their crowd. Simply because a club has a crowd that is predominately white or brown or yellow or black doesn't mean that club's management is racist. The crowd at Grooves, for example, will almost always be 98 percent black. But that's not because they're racist against white people. From what I understand, they appreciate white people's money just as much as they appreciate black people's money. White people just don't go there.


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19 comments
RemoveRacismHtown
RemoveRacismHtown

@jeffbarati (https://twitter.com/jeffbarati) and @asaweida (https://twitter.com/asaweida) - are openly and blatantly engaging in discriminatory activities at Roak on Kirby. They are doing this under the guise of discretion and exclusivity. Well, discretion/exclusivity doesn't equal racial/color/gender discrimination happening at Roak on Kirby. It is extremely sad that in today's time, racial and other forms of discrimination are still prevailing in this city of Houston and the officials turn a blind eye to them - corruption at its highest where the integrity and respect for all humans are not preserved and the people like Jeff Barati and Andy Aweida are continuously abusing the system to proliferate their disgusting racism at Roak on Kirby, which was a funeral-home before these monsters turned it into a hub for discrimination.

Against_HTown_Racism
Against_HTown_Racism

It's RAY MOUSAVI from NOX, DIEM, ROAK ON KIRBY that is promoting the ugly racial/color/gender discrimination and to support him is a local store EM&LEE (Rice Village, Midtown, River Oaks).

worldlyman
worldlyman

Houston still surprisingly gets along better than other metros like San Diego and L.A. In downtown, hip hop clubgoers, hipsters that go to No Tsu Oh, Latin steppers going to Jefe and Irish bar pubsters over at McElroy's, as examples, get along on the sidewalks fairly well. It's not like I notice throngs of blacks and Latinos in the popular L.A. and San Diego nightlife areas existing side by side with whites like they do in Houston, or at least downtown Houston.

ItsNotHardToFigureOutWhoIAm
ItsNotHardToFigureOutWhoIAm

Very well written article.

Racism is disgusting and should not be given a "pass" because they are "playing to the strengths" of their desire markets. A Tejano bar is a tejano bar and to go there and expect to see something other than hispanics is silly. The problem with Nox, Hudson, and Ei8ght is they don't have a desire "market" to play off of. They serve the same drinks as all other places and play top 40 music that appeals to everyone, there is no desire by their owner/manager to do something unique to one demographic or another. They choose to be bias towards their potential guess for reasons no one is willing to say out loud.

I'm black and I wear a suit when I step out (usually just leaving my office when I have the urge to go out). I was turned around at Nox at 10pm while no one was in line, being on the list for a birthday party which I paid for the two bottles, just cause. At first I thought it was a mix up till the door guy told me "Your not getting in."

I went to Hudson for their soft opening and invited my friends out to experience it. I know a handful of the staff and went there often for their duck sandwich, till one night when I was turned down with a client (both of us in suits). I stood their shock till some random guy walked in and passed the guy a twenty. I choose to leave.

When faced with these issues I choose to leave and never support them again. Instead of saying you are so appalled why don't you do something about it and hurt them where you know they'll feel it, financially.

Racism is disgusting, but it is up to the consumers to let the owners know you won't stand for it.

Houston
Houston

The case is even worse at at Eight on Washington Ave.. the line outside is notorious, this line never moves and eventually people leave in frustration, when at the same time, other people are just allowed in by the doorman.. In case of Eight, the doorman is one of the worst cases of implied discrimination - he bluntly ignores the growing line outside Eight.. and if someone asks him a question, he pretends to be deaf or something and act as if he didn't hear anything.. Discrimination at its finest.. along with Nox and Diem Lounge - where the doormen shamelessly tells people excuses like "1. we have met your quota of your kind for tonight, 2. there is enough of your kind already here, 3. if you don't have a girl with you, you are not getting in"... etc etc..It is high time all these places are held accountable and brought to justice for engaging in such discriminatory activities and bring frustration to the public of Houston who have equal rights to visit these places..

Houston
Houston

This incident became the news as the number of people involved was big.. around 100.. Every day, countless such incidents go unnoticed at many night-life venues in Houston.. It'll be good to expose such places and the people who run these discriminatory places.. Example:Red Room: GM Brad Stearnes, Door man: Dan Green, Diem Lounge/Nox: Ray Mousavi, etc etc.. Almost every place on Washington Ave is heavily practicing discrimination based on race, color and gender..

dontwannabeatadbagbaranyway
dontwannabeatadbagbaranyway

How is "not attractive enough" any better than discrimination based on race? It's discrimination against customer's physical attributes.

And if you don't want customers playing internet jukebox tunes that are "wrong for the club's target demographic", don't program them in the machine. Letting customers pay for songs on a jukebox and then killing all of his cuts is just wrong.

Rasmus
Rasmus

I am a 24 yr old black male and I didn't really care for not being allowed into Sawyer Park "because of my shoes" (all black Clark desert boots). BUT, not being allowed into shitty Tavern on Gray because my cap (navy blue Washington Nationals hat) didn't have a "definitive bend"??? Haaa, it just gets funny at some point

Badabing
Badabing

You asked the question "Where it needed to be asked.". Wow...isn't that racist in itself?

Chef504
Chef504

The bottom line is making MONEY!! A club and it's owners and it's staff are there for one reason and one reason alone MONEY!! A club like any establishment has to have an identity to be successful. You may wonder how I know this, it's because I run both clubs and restaurants. First in the city of New Orleans. Every place plays to a demographic thats the reality of it, and with that comes an expectation of normalcy and comfort from your patrons. The staff makes it's money on regulars, and the feeling of importance whether it be false or true that is bestowed on the guests. Houston like all cities big or small has bars for everyone. The Tejano bars down the street from my house play to their strengths. I can't understand why this recent display of reality has been a shock to the peoples of Houston. I have been a drinker and someone that goes out all the time for more than a decade. I know places that I can go, but probably shouldn't, and plan nights out accordingly. If I feel the need to throw a party in a place and change the music that is normally played in the establishment then I am starting off wrong. I would not throw a party at Poison Girl and change the music to Country, or go to a Tejano bar and change the music to bands like MGMT. Unless I rented out the entire space and had a signed contract. I suppose what I am getting at is if I threw a party, and I am Native American, Irish, and Spanish, with my friends and I went to a bar that is mostly hip-hop wanted to change their music while they had regular clientele in there I believe I would have a problem. The Houston bar scene is more fickle than most. If you make enough of your regulars leave for any reason just for even one night and they stumble upon somewhere else that they like your bar can be a thing of the past. MONEY baby thats all it is, and taking things personally is more of a crime than anything I have heard so far. If you don't want to deal with the "racism", and the scene is just to much to bear than I suggest throwing house parties where you can be in total control. If you really have balls open up your bar.

Hello
Hello

There is no truth to the rumor that Hudson reopened on the night in question.

Orlando
Orlando

I was told at Diem and Nox that I couldn't come in because I wasn't Persian and wearing white dress shoes.

Kyle
Kyle

Good post, and I think most people accept a lot of this. Yes, clubs have a dress code, but I think when a dress code can be demonstrated to be unevenly enforced is when people have a problem.

Regarding "one too many guys", should gender discrimination be acceptable in the club industry? If clubs shouldn't be trying to strike a racial balance in the club, why should they be trying to strike a gender balance?

costadanny83
costadanny83

@ItsNotHardToFigureOutWhoIAm hi my name is danny costello im having problem with a racist lawer and looking for help i have email and stuff to prove it dont know how to fight back if anyone can point me in the right direction i would appeciate it 713 927 2553

ItsNotHardToFigureOutWhoIAm
ItsNotHardToFigureOutWhoIAm

And Eight...I'm on the guest list because its THE GIRL I'M SEEINGS B-Day (a white female) and I'm not allowed in till she comes gets me. I saw her friend, a white guy and he went to the door guy letting him know I'm part of the party. The door guy let's him in and STILL won't let me in till my girl comes gets me. The female came to the door and still I had to wait for another 10 minutes before I was allowed in...I said hello to her friends and left within 5 minutes.

Stop supporting these horrible places.

SheaSerrano
SheaSerrano

I do not believe so, Badabing. What I was referring to was asking the clubs that had a reputation for being discriminatory in one capacity or another. Sorry that that was unclear.

Shea

Houston
Houston

MONEY is alright, and for that purpose, these discriminatory clubs or lounges or whatever you wanna call then, can impose cover charges, even if just for the guys. But to discriminate based on any absurd reason is wrong. Ever been to Austin? There are tons of places there and they are there to make money as well - but for most of those places, the door man and the management, know how to treat people with respect, they know how to smile and they know what is good customer service and they know how to welcome their guests. If money is the ONLY motive for Houston night-life venues, then it just shows what a polished ghetto these places are.. And simply ignoring these places and going elsewhere is not the solution, it'll only help in increasing discrimination.. Instead what is required is to expose these places by reviews etc. And if someone really has enough time and energy, then bring these places to the ground by collecting 'enough' and 'credible' evidence to prove that discrimination exists instead of just ranting about. Just go to Yelp and see how many stars these places have, and then compare it with similar places in Austin and elsewhere.. There are two ways to do business and both ways will make you money: 1. Good Way, and 2. Bad Way, but Houston clubs only know about the Bad Way..

Duce630
Duce630

I hate when its inconsistent. Don't tell me that its my shoes or my shirt when I can see people dressed "worse" than I am in the bar.

Houston
Houston

Very well written and absolutely true reply. Before this Washington wave came along, club scene in Houston was slightly better. You pay the 'official' cover and get in. But with this new trend, starting with Drake on Washington Ave, and soon being picked by 'All' places on Washington Ave, there is a substantial increase on discrimination based on color, race and gender in almost all popular night-life venues in Houston. And these places and their owners and the management are promoting this discriminatory behavior. There are tons of examples, some of them being:1. Ei8ht - like you mentioned.. the line never moves and the door man is ignorant to 'certain' people2. Nox and Diem lounge - owner Ray Mousavi has instructed the door man to not allow people of certain color, race and gender, most of these victims being blacks, browns and guys..3. Red Room: GM Brad Stearnes and door man Dan Green are heavily engaged in practicing their excuse giving skills for things they know they cannot say loud. This place says they want to do night-life NYC style - really? Then respect diversity and have some decent human attitude..4. Sanctuary Lounge: another place on Washington Ave, where the door man is over qualified with same old lame excuses like "tonight is reservations only or guest list only " when you can see the same door guy lets other people in without asking them any questions..

It is high time, that Houston's official and legal authorities wake up and trim this increasing discrimination based on race, color, gender etc..

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