Heather Cox and her wife, Sonia Otalvaro, wanted a fun night out when they went to Dean’s Club in North Miami Beach. But they say they never got past the front door.
“We said, ‘Yeah, we want to come in,’ and they said, ‘You can’t,’ and I was very confused by that answer," recounted Cox. "So I asked again, ‘What do you mean we can’t? You have to be accompanied by a man’ they said."
The couple, who was visiting from San Francisco, says they called an attorney to sue the club for violating Miami Dade County code that prohibits discrimination based on “gender or sexual orientation.”
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“It’s blatant discrimination. I can’t get into the club because I’m not with a man. What?” said Cox.
According to the lawsuit, Dean’s said, “It is a company policy not to allow unescorted ladies in our club without first seeking management approval."
“They were targeting a specific part of the population and you can’t. They were targeting unaccompanied women,” said Matthew Dietz, the attorney Cox and Otalvaro hired.
Dean’s Club says they do not discriminate and that they have the obligation to screen visitors to protect the business and their customers.
“What happens here is that because it is a gentleman’s club there are concerns that it may attract people such as prostitutes or women who are upset looking for their husbands or their boyfriends. And there have been incidents,” said Eduardo Rasco, the attorney for Dean's Gold.
Rachel’s, an adult club in Orlando, seems to share the same concerns. Two women shot video of a club manager explaining why they were not allowed in.
On the video the manager tells them, "We don’t let females in by themselves because we don’t know if you’re looking for your husbands or boyfriends. We don’t want a domestic situation, all right. That’s why we’re not going to allow you in here by yourselves.”
Anita Yanes and Britney Smith, who recorded the video, filed a lawsuit against Rachel's. They are also represented by Dietz.
“I felt embarrassed. I mean it never happened to me before,” said Yanes.
Smith says she’s actually been allowed in the club before with a male friend and this was the first time she was denied.
“I was completely embarrassed and felt humiliated,” said Smith.
Rachel's did not want to talk on camera about their policy but a manager defended the practice saying that it’s common among clubs in the area.
An online search shows similar complaints including a woman who sued a club in Los Angeles when she wasn’t allowed in. It ended in a settlement.
As for Dean's, Rasco tells us they have now “revamped the ways they filter out undesirables.”
Two female producers for NBC 6 went to Dean's Club to see if that was the case. Both were allowed into Dean’s and four other strip clubs in South Florida with no problems.
That’s what the four women who are suing say they want to see at gentlemen’s clubs everywhere and hope their lawsuits are part of that change.
“I hope this will shine a light on other establishments that are doing the same things,” said Smith.
“Do the right thing be true gentlemen and treat people equally because the definition of a gentleman is a man who acts honorably and so treating people in the way we were treated is not honorable,” said Otalvaro.
The attorney for Dean's says that the day the women visited, the employee did not follow the company's policy correctly, because it says employees should not turn away unaccompanied women but they should call a manager on duty.