Athens passes move against LGBT, racial discrimination in downtown bars

The Athens-Clarke County commissioners unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday evening that could lead to downtown bars losing their liquor licenses if they discriminate against patrons. The resolution calls for recommendations from the county attorney and the county manager on what local action can be taken in such instances.

From the Athens Banner-Herald:

The resolution asks that the attorney’s office and the manager’s office “study and make recommendations to the Mayor and Commission for actions that may be taken at the local level … including but not limited to the ongoing consideration of possible revision to the county alcohol licensing ordinance to make a violation of local, state or federal anti-discrimination or civil rights ordinances or laws a basis for the denial, suspension or revocation of an alcoholic beverages license.”

The resolution, largely the work of Commissioners Andy Herod, Kelly Girtz and Mike Hamby, with assistance from the manager’s office and Mayor Nancy Denson, comes just a matter of weeks after an anonymous survey conducted through the University of Georgia’s Student Government Association produced dozens of anecdotes regarding the use of dress codes and private party claims to keep people out of a number of downtown bars on the basis of their race or sexual orientation.

Denson called the resolution “a statement of values in our community.”

It’s not yet clear when the county attorney and county manager will be required to present their recommendations. Bar owners in attendance at Tuesday’s session cited the common usage of dress codes at bars that could lead to someone being denied admission, bringing to mind a similar controversy surrounding popular Atlanta bar Blake’s On The Park last year.

The resolution follows an incident last fall when it was discovered that a Civil War-themed bar was offering a drink special that used a racial slur in the name. A subsequent anonymous online survey conducted through the University of Georgia’s Student Government Association showed more than 50 anectodal accounts of alleged discriminatory practices that aimed at keeping minorities and gay people out of downtown Athens bars.

From the survey per the Athens Banner-Herald:

Regarding sexual discrimination limiting entry to downtown bars, a survey respondent writing about an alleged March incident at Double Barrel said, “I was denied access because of my dress, and the bouncer said ‘we don’t let fags in here.’”

Similarly, another survey response, regarding an October incident at Whiskey Bent, contends, “My friend was kicked out of the bar for being gay. He was a guy who kissed another guy at the bar and the bouncer told them to leave.”

The city scored a paltry 19 on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2015 Municipal Equality Index.