Black Bar Patrons Allege Discrimination in New Lawsuit

Black Bar Patrons Allege Discrimination in New Lawsuit

The Massachusetts attorney general is filing suit against a Dorchester bar for its refusal to allow entry to a group of Black men.

Published August 16, 2011

A local bar in Dorchester, Massachusetts, is being sued for violations of state law stemming from several incidents when it refused entry to people of color.

The complaint, filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley on behalf of the plaintiffs, alleges that Peggy O’Neils engaged in a pattern of not allowing customers of color to enter and use the bar in violation of Massachusetts civil rights and public accommodations laws.

“We allege that Peggy O’Neil’s engaged in discriminatory and unlawful conduct,” Coakley said in a statement. “No one who lives, works or visits Massachusetts should be subjected to discrimination. All businesses must ensure that appropriate anti-discrimination policies are posted and adhered to within their establishments.”

According to the lawsuit, in December 2010, two men of Cape Verdean and African-American descent went to Peggy O’Neil’s, and waited in line with other customers as staff allowed White customers to enter the bar in front of them. The owner allegedly said to the group, “This is your first time here, huh?” and informed them that they could not get in because it was too late. The men say that the owner then told the group she did not “want any trouble,” that she didn’t know them, and that they should find somewhere else to go.

Later that evening, other men of Cape Verdean, Hispanic and African-American descent also attempted to enter the bar and were also allegedly denied entry by bar staff. They were to celebrate the birthday of a patron, who was white and already in the bar. She attempted to intervene, but was unable to get her friends entry. Owner Caron O’Neil, the suit said, refused to let the other guests come inside.

The men claim they were told, “You don’t look like the type of people” the owner would know and “we don’t like people of your kind here” among other statements. The lawsuit further states that a third group of persons of color were denied entry to Peggy O’Neil’s in April 2011 and were treated in a similar manner.

The owners of the bar have denied the allegations. “Absolutely, we do not discriminate against anybody,’’ Caron O’Neil, who is named in the suit as the bar’s owner, told a Boston paper. “We’re a Dorchester neighborhood bar. That’s our customer base.’’

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages, civil penalties and permanent injunctive relief, in addition to a preliminary injunction requiring the defendants and Peggy O’Neil’s staff to comply with state and federal anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws, undergo anti-discrimination training and implement an approved anti-discrimination policy.

(Photo: Peggy O'Neil's via

Written by Naeesa Aziz


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