Fort Worth

Fort Worth Investigates Varsity Tavern After Discrimination Complaints

Popular West 7th bar says it takes allegations seriously

The city of Fort Worth is investigating complaints a popular bar off West 7th Street discriminates by using its dress code to deny minorities from entering.

The club, Varsity Tavern, is one of the most popular in Fort Worth.

“Varsity Tavern takes these incidents and accusations very seriously and we are in the process of doing an internal investigation into this matter,” the company said in a brief statement.

College student Sam Sayed complained to the city’s Human Relations Commission after he said he and several friends were discriminated against two separate times over spring break.

"They make these generalizations about people,” he said.

The bar prominently posts its dress code by the front door.

Among other things, it forbids "baggy pants," "Jordans," and "oversized chains with medallions."

"The racism starts long before anyone gets in line, in that the rule itself is inherently racist,” Sayed said. “If you look at the demographic of who buys Jordans, you are going to see it's predominately minorities."

Sayed claims the bar unevenly enforced its rules when he came here with a friend, Stephen Acheampong, an African-American from New York City whose family is from Ghana.

"Stephen had on some joggers and I had some joggers on as well. He's right behind me in line. And the bouncer let me in with the joggers,” Sayed said.

The bouncer turned away Acheampong for wearing the exact same kind of pants, he said.

"And he just laughed. He said, 'You just let my friend in with them,’” Sayed said. “And I turned around, like, 'What's going on?'"

A week later, he said they returned.

Acheampong wasn't allowed in – this time for wearing Jordans.

So they decided to do an experiment with a white friend named Sean.

"And I said, 'Guys, let's switch shoes. Let's put the Jordans on Sean and put the Sperry's on Steven" and we'll watch from afar,” Sayed said.

An hour later, he said, they returned.

The white friend, Sean, was allowed in wearing the same shoes that his black friend was turned away for wearing.

Sean recorded what happened with his cell phone.

"We kind of looked at each other. 'Did that really just happen?'" Sayed said.

Senior investigator Laurie Maniotis with the Fort Worth Human Relations Commission will handle the complaint.

"Our goal is really to change behavior and prevent any discrimination going forward to the extent it's taking place,” she said.

Maniotis said businesses have 15 days to respond to such complaints.

If the case cannot be resolved and the complaint is substantiated, it could end up in Municipal Court. The maximum fine is $500 per violation.

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