CR (202) 616-2765 TDD (202) 514-1888

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SUES LOUISIANA NIGHTCLUB FOR BANNING BLACKS WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Justice Department today accused the owners of a Louisiana nightclub of refusing to admit African Americans, including an Assistant U.S. Attorney from Chicago responsible for prosecuting criminal and civil rights cases. The civil suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Shreveport, alleged that the owners of the La Poussiere nightclub in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, near Lafayette, violated Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The black prosecutor, Zaldwaynaka (Zee) Scott, as well as her white colleagues, Helene Greenwald and Matthew Bettenhausen, also filed a separate suit today. "Over three decades ago, Congress spoke for all decent Americans by making it illegal to exclude people from places like this because of their skin color," said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Deval L. Patrick. "It is startling that thirty years later this club still hasn't gotten the message." The government case follows a complaint filed with the Justice Department by the three prosecutors last year. They contended that on April 16, 1994, the club prohibited them from entering together because one of them was an African American. The complaint, which sparked a Justice Department investigation, alleged that the three prosecutors, who had been attending a conference in New Orleans, visited the Lafayette area to listen to Cajun music. When they arrived at La Poussiere, two of the prosecutors remained in the car as Greenwald walked to the entrance to see if the club was open. The person admitting people to the club said that it was, and that there was a two dollar cover charge. When she returned with Scott, a Shreveport native who is black, the person at the door said they could not enter because the club was hosting a private party. Greenwald claimed that she then watched as three whites who were not on the list were allowed to enter. When Greenwald asked why they had been turned away, the person at the door allegedly admitted that it was because Scott was black. Later that evening, Bettenhausen returned to the club and was admitted upon paying the cover charge. The Justice Department investigation revealed that the club's practice of denying blacks entry by claiming they were hosting a private party occurred on other occasions. "Unlawful racial discrimination remains a problem throughout the country as well as here in Louisiana," said Michael D. Skinner, U.S. Attorney in Lafayette. "We hope by taking legal action such as this we will stop the despicable practice of denying access to public facilities solely because of the color of one's skin." The relief sought in the suits includes a court order preventing the club's owners from discriminating in the future as well as monetary and punitive damages for the three plaintiffs. # # # 95-206