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Combs v. Cordish Companies, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

August 26, 2014

DANTE A.R. COMBS, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, and ADAM S. WILLIAMS, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE CORDISH COMPANIES, INC., et al., Defendants.

ORDER AND OPINION (1) DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS FILED BY CORDISH COMPANIES AND OTHER DEFENDANTS, (2) GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTION TO DISMISS FILED BY FIRST RESPONSE, AND (3) DISMISSING COUNT I WITHOUT PREJUDICE FOR LACK OF JURISDICTION

ORTRIE D. SMITH, Sr., District Judge.

Pending are separate motions to dismiss filed by (1) Lounge KC, Entertainment Concepts Investors, Entertainment Consulting International and the Cordish Companies (collectively "Cordish") and (2) First Response. Cordish seeks dismissal of the class allegations only. First Response's motion also addresses the class allegations and claims, and also seeks dismissal of the individual/named Plaintiffs' claims as well. Cordish's motion (Doc. # 26) is denied; First Response's motion (Doc. # 35) is granted in part and denied in part.

A.

The Amended Complaint raises allegations about activities in "the Power and Light District" ("the District") - "an approximately eight-block neighborhood located in downtown Kansas City" that consists of "a number of restaurants, bars, clubs, and other entertainment venues...." Amended Complaint, ¶¶ 12-13. Not all of the Defendants' roles or connections to the District are pleaded (but this is not the basis for the motions so the Court will not dwell on the issue at length). Cordish, on its own or through subsidiaries, is alleged to "own, operate and/or lease" the property in the District. Id., ¶ 9. Lounge KC is alleged to own one of the bars or restaurants in the District. Id., ¶ 7. First Response is described in the parties' filings as a security company hired to provide security and surveillance in the District. E.g., Doc. # 27 at 6; Doc. # 36 at 6.

Within the District is a common area referred to as the "Living Room" or "Plaza, " consisting of a patio area and the entrances (in some cases, the only entrances) to various bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Amended Complaint, ¶¶ 16-17. As a general matter, the Amended Complaint alleges measures have been taken to preclude African Americans from being in the Plaza, thereby denying them access to the businesses accessed therefrom. The Amended Complaint begins with allegations about a dress code that supposedly existed until 2008. It is alleged that complaints were made that the dress code was (1) itself discriminatory and (2) was applied in a discriminatory manner in order to exclude African Americans. Id., ¶ 22. The City Council passed an ordinance in April 2008 that limited what could be included in such a dress code. Id., ¶ 23. Subsequent "testing" of the ordinance's effectiveness revealed that it was ignored, resulting in lawsuits. Id., ¶¶ 24-28. Plaintiffs allege that following these events, "Defendants were forced to implement harder-to-detect methods of harassment, humiliation, and intimidation to carry out their discriminatory schemes." Id., ¶ 29.

The Amended Complaint then sets forth the means Defendants are alleged to have adopted to limit African Americans' access to the District. These alleged means include:

• Delayed our outright denial of entry, Id., ¶¶ 32-33,
• Harassing and provoking patrons through the use of "excessive questioning, " following patrons, and making "unfounded accusations" about violations of the dress code or the District's rules of conduct, Id., ¶¶ 34-36, and
• The use of one or more employees (termed "rabbits") to initiate altercations with African Americans in order to provide an excuse to eject them. Id., ¶ 42-48.

It is specifically alleged that these tactics are employed "for the purpose of restricting the access of African Americans" to the District and the establishments therein. Id., ¶ 38. The wording of the other allegations also makes clear that Plaintiffs allege these tactics are used as a means for excluding and removing African Americans from the District.

The Amended Complaint then sets forth three specific instances in which these tactics were employed: two involve Combs, and one involves both Combs and Williams. Id., ¶¶ 49-90.

Plaintiffs assert two claims on behalf of themselves and a class. Both claims assert discrimination based on race (although they invoke different civil rights statutes). Count I is predicated on Title II of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation. Count II asserts violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, which prohibits discrimination in the making and enforcing of contracts and contractual relationships. The Class Definition is very lengthy and will ...


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