A group of predominantly black Harvard and Yale alumni and graduate students was rejected from the Cure Lounge in Boston, Mass. after the Harvard-Yale football game Saturday.
As a line of Elis and Cantabs in cocktail attire gathered outside the club, the venue refused to admit attendees without a Harvard or Yale ID. In response, party organizers — who provided management with a guest list when three Harvard grads booked the space — argued that most of the guests were alumni and therefore would not be carrying school ID. The club kicked out those it had already admitted around 11:00 p.m., according to an e-mail party organizer and Harvard Business School student Michael Beal sent to invitees.
Beal’s e-mail blamed the event on racism and said the club’s management told him his party might attract “local gang bangers” and the “wrong crowd.”
George Regan, the club’s spokesman, said that the party was shut down not because of the color of the guests’ skin, but because of other young people waiting in line unaffiliated with Harvard or Yale, whom he called “bad people,” “professional wise-guys” who “couldn’t spell the words ‘Harvard’ or ‘Yale,’” and the sort who “cause trouble.”
He denied that the club’s management used the term “gang banger,” adding that the party’s organizers were being “cute” in protesting the club’s decision to shut the event down.
Those who were granted access to the event were asked to leave without finishing their drinks when the club decided to cancel the event. Ticket holders received a partial reimbursement for the ticket price, but not for the drinks they bought.
It was Cure Lounge’s first weekend operating and Beal said in his e-mail that he thought the club owner might be especially cautious as a result. He added that he spoke to the club’s owner at length that night and did not consider him a racist.
Regan said the party’s organizers had agreed in advance that all party-goers would have to present a Harvard or Yale ID to be admitted, but Caprice Gray ’08, a Harvard School of Public Health graduate, called this claim “categorically untrue.”
He added that a “racially mixed” Harvard-Yale graduate student party the night before organized by the same alumni had no problems because everyone who came brought a school ID. In addition, a predominantly black event took place Saturday night across the street from Cure, at Nick’s Comedy Stop, which belongs to the same owner. The event at Nick’s had no problems, Regan said.
Ayanna Pressley, Boston city councilor at-large, sent a letter to Patricia Malone, director of the mayor’s office of consumer affairs and licensing, asking that she launch an investigation of the incident, said Pressley’s chief of staff James Chisholm.
“We want to send the message loud and clear that this is unacceptable any time,” Chisholm said, adding that undertrained security guards might have played a role in the incident.
Chisholm added that Boston has a history of white gangs, but it is unlikely that a bouncer would be concerned that a group of white people in cocktail attire would attract gang bangers.
“What’s very telling is that there were no reports of fights after they shut down the party,” Chisholm said. “Everyone in line either went home or went somewhere else. It suggests to me that there were no problems in line to begin with.”
Gray said she had not doubted that the group’s rejection from the club was racially motivated.
“By claiming that we could be attracting [gang bangers], or that they could be blending in with us, it was essentially placing us in that same category just because of the color of our skin,” she said.
Gray said selling a service and then adding a precondition after seeing the crowd’s race is not only immoral but also illegal.
She added that the event is getting press attention because of the education of the people involved, but that this should not be the case.
“It shouldn’t be that way,” she said. “You shouldn’t need credentials to be treated with dignity and respect.”
Cure Lounge is located on Tremont Street in Boston, Mass.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Caprice Gray ’08 as an organizer of the event at Cure Lounge, of which she was only an attendee. Gray was also quoted as saying that the club’s actions were racist, when in fact she only said they were immoral and illegal.