Cure Lounge, the Boston nightclub accused by patrons of racism for shutting down a black alumni party the weekend of the Harvard-Yale football game, issued a public apology and agreed to pay a $30,000 fine Friday.
The club will also have its employees undergo annual anti-discrimination training as part of a judgment by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced Friday. The consent judgment ends lawsuits against the club’s owner, Paige Hospitality Inc., alleging the club’s actions violated public accommodations and consumer protection laws. Those lawsuits followed claims by the event’s organizers, three Harvard graduate students, that the club’s management cited concerns about “local gangbangers” and the “wrong crowd” in closing the party.
“Massachusetts businesses cannot refuse to host events because of racial reasons,” Coakley said. “In this case, club staff made harmful and ill-conceived conclusions based on the simple fact that most of the guests were black.”
The alleged behavior of Cure Lounge staff, Coakley said, is the “essence of racial stereotyping” and a reminder that there is still progress to be made in tackling this issue.
At the event, staff refused to admit guests who did not present Harvard or Yale identification, though party organizers pointed out that most of the 400 guests would be alumni and thus without school IDs, according to an e-mail by party organizer and Harvard Business School student Michael Beal. Fearing disruptive activity, the club then asked those it had already admitted to leave around 11:00 p.m., he added.
“We were perceived as a threat because of our skin color,” Beal wrote in the e-mail.
As part of the agreement, Cure Lounge issued a public apology that will remain on its website for 30 days.
“Cure Lounge does not tolerate racism,” the statement reads. “And will do everything in its power to ensure that the events of November 20 will not be repeated.”
The $30,000 fine will be distributed at Coakley’s discretion to groups that support higher education opportunities for African-American students.
The club also apologized for statements made on its behalf by George Regan Jr., the chairman of Boston public relations firm Regan Communications Group, after the event.
His statements, the apology said, were “uninformed.”
In a November interview with the News, Regan said the party was shut down because of “bad people,” and “professional wise-guys [who] couldn’t spell the words ‘Harvard’ or ‘Yale’ … who cause trouble,” and not because of the color of the guests’ skin.
At the time, Regan denied that the club’s management used the term “gangbanger” and called the party organizers’ concerns about the racial motivations behind the club’s decisions “cute.”
Regan, who could not be reached for comment Sunday, told the Associated Press on Friday that he does not believe he owes anyone an apology, adding that he is no longer the spokesperson of Cure Lounge.
“This incident happened over three months ago. I only repeated what I was told by the owners,” he said. “It wasn’t until the Attorney General’s office started to put pressure on them that the owners wanted to rewrite the facts, for obvious reasons.”
Cure Lounge management could not be reached for comment Sunday.
Still, state officials and Yale students reacted positively to the judgment.
Julian Tynes, the chairman of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, said the judgment was a positive resolution for both his office and Paige Hospitality Inc., which avoided two lawsuits.
“The judgment achieves the public interest, and that’s our primary interest,” he said. “We want to go beyond the fine [with training and public awareness], we want to take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again at that club and other clubs around Massachusetts.”
Tynes explained that if Paige Hospitality Inc. had not accepted the settlement, his office would have proceeded with a complaint and subpoena request, which would have led to a court case that, given the evidence presented, Paige Hospitality Inc. would likely have lost.
A.T. McWilliams ’12, the president of the Black Student Alliance at Yale, and Jomaire Crawford LAW ’12, president of the Black Law Students Association, echoed Tynes’ assessment of the outcome.
“Cure Lounge’s apology is just lip service if not accompanied by a drastic change in the club’s future treatment of its black patrons, whether they are students of an elite institution or not,” said Crawford, who was on her way to the event when she received a text message saying that it had been cancelled. “We are hopeful that the club will seize hold of this teachable moment to improve the racial attitudes of its staff.”
The weekend of the Harvard-Yale football game, which took place Nov. 20, 2010, was Cure Lounge’s first weekend in operation.
Nick Levine contributed reporting.