More than three months after the Denver Police Department prohibited its officers from providing off-duty security at LoDo's Chloe nightclub and any other clubs associated with Denver's Lotus Concepts, the boys in blue are back on duty there.
In April, the Colorado Division of Civil Rights issued a probable-cause determination that Chloe had discriminated against club-goer Kandi Brown on August 5, 2011. Brown claimed that she and three friends were denied entrance into the popular late-night spot because they were black. According to Brown's report of the incident, the group dressed "upscale" and did not violate the company's formal dress code, but was still turned away at the door with the line "We cannot accommodate you right now." Without a reason why, they left — and noticed white customers entering the club "in jeans and sneakers" on their way out. For her part, Brown wore dress pants, heels, makeup and a "nice blouse."
Lotus Concepts officials countered this report, arguing that while their employees have the "flexibility" to turn away whomever they choose, they do not base their decisions on race. In August, a Chloe door guard noticed that one of the men with Brown was not up to dress code, he says, citing his athletic shoes, but if he had been, "they would have been admitted on the night in question." According to the same Division of Civil Rights document, Lotus owner Francois Safieddine judges admission into his clubs based on "safety, image and profitability."
The case drew the attention of the DPD, which has a rule that prohibits its officers from working as off-duty security in any venue accused of discrimination. As a result, Chief Robert White ended the DPD's relationship with the company. (Off-duty officers routinely provide security at several bars and nightclubs around town.)
But that changed last weekend, when six officers returned to the clubs after Lotus changed its dress-code policy; the Division of Civil Rights had specifically mandated in its ruling that the clubs enforce their dress codes consistently and post signs notifying visitors that the clubs' rules oppose discrimination.
Lotus general manager Brad Manske says the new policies will be unveiled in full on Lotus's website later this week, but they specify restrictions that previously could have been vague, he says. For example, a ban on wearing "sportswear" to Lotus clubs now highlights individual violations, including basketball shoes, running shoes and flip-flops. The full dress code will also be available at the door.
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In light of these changes, Manske says the DPD agreed early last week to allow its officers to recommence off-duty work there. The reinstatement was approved on Monday, he says, and the first officer returned on Thursday. "We worked on some of our policies, really tried to tailor them and make them as clear as possible, and the department chose to reassign the officers," Manske says. "We're glad they're back."
The news was slow in reaching DPD officials, however; as recently as Friday — the day after the officers went back to work at Chloe — a public information officer told Westword that the ban was still in place. On Monday, however, DPD spokeswoman Raquel Lopez confirmed the news through the department's secondary-employment unit.
Last week, Chief White "met with the board and approved the change in information," she says.
The case may not be over quite yet, however, as the Civil Rights Division's decision requires that the two groups in the scuffle seek mediation — which has not worked out to date. A lawsuit is still possible.