Source: Facebook screen shot
Source: Facebook screen shot

A popular bar in uptown Charlotte is strongly denying allegations raised on social media that it turned away African American customers who were not members while allowing whites to enter without memberships.

In an email sent to Qcitymetro, Kandy Bar Charlotte, located in the EpiCentre, said the allegations raised by Facebook user Ashley Ellis Sisco are untrue. The bar also release video footage and photos that appeared to show African Americans being admitted and having fun inside the club on the night in question.

“…We take these allegations very seriously,” the company said in the email. “As a member of the Charlotte community, we have zero tolerance for discrimination and harassment.”

The controversy erupted on Sunday when Sisco, who had attempted to enter the bar the previous night, posted photos and a video to her Facebook page that purport to show an African American male being turned away at the entrance of Kandy Bar. As of late Monday, her post had been shared more than 85,000 times.

Sisco wrote that she and a group of friends also were denied entry. All were African American, she said.

“They told us we could not enter because we were not members so they made us leave,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “Well of course I asked the group of white girls behind us if they were members and they said no you don’t need a membership to get in. Ummmm? So i guess the membership was you had to be white?”

Sisco said she walked away “heartbroken, angry, pissed” and “mad as hell.”

Billy Christy, who identified himself as a Kandy Bar employee, said via email that the club was reviewing its own video footage to confirm that blacks were not indiscriminately turned away. He also sent photos to Qcitmetro purporting to show African Americans who were in the club that night. Christy said the pictures, seen below, were submitted by partygoers who had heard about the controversy and wanted to show support for the club and its staff. Qcitymetro could not independently verify Christy’s account of the photos and videos.

Anyone who was denied entrance, Christy said, was likely turned away because their attire did not meet the club’s dress code.

Davida Jackson, an African American who was at Kandy Bar Saturday night celebrating her 32nd birthday, said she encountered no problems.

“We had a great time!” she told Qcitymetro via email. “The staff was very accommodating the entire night. It was a mixed crowd. My guests paid the $1 membership fee after a certain time when the bar turned into a nightclub. Everyone got in. No issues.”

Jackson said she was not surprised by the membership requirement, having encountered similar policies at other Charlotte nightspots.

Christy, meanwhile, described the whole thing as an apparent misunderstanding.

“Anyone who has been inside already knows that we are a very diverse venue,” he wrote.

Christy said the bar attempted to contact Sisco but had received no response.

In a separate email, Christy said the bar does, in fact, enforce a membership policy, which, he said, is required by state law.

“They can literally shut the doors down and fine us heavily if we don’t follow the rules and regulations ourselves,” he said.

In response to questions submitted by Qcitymetro, Christy offered this Q&A. (emphasis added):

How can people join? Every patron must fill out a one page application that includes their full name address phone number email date of birth, DL# and state issued. Many ppl have complained about paying the $1 charge and filling out all that personal info that they just turn around and leave.

How much does it cost? $1 (alcohol law enforcement requires us to charge something for the membership)

Are there any requirements? The requirements are abiding by the dress code, be courteous and friendly to the door staff and everyone must sign in upon receiving a membership. The first part is more before you get in and are able to apply for one.

Can you sign up at the door? You can sign up at the hostess stand once your id is checked and you have abided by the rules and regulations and dress code.

The Kandy Bar controversy is not the first time that an entertainment venue at the EpiCentre has been accused of racial discrimination. In 2011, former Charlotte resident Phillip Agnew was arrested after he refused a security guard’s demand that he leave the uptown venue. Before Agnew was asked to leave, the guard, who also was African American, had informed Agnew that his cap was being worn in a way that violated EpiCentre’s dress code. Agnew later told Qcitymetro that he had refused to adjust his cap as the guard had requested.

Agnew, who has since moved to Florida and changed his name to Umi Selah, is a cofounder of Dream Keepers, a civil rights organization created in the wake of the 2012 slaying of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Qcitymetro staffer Corey Conner contributed to this report.

Founder and publisher of Qcitymetro, Glenn has worked at newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Wall Street Journal and The Charlotte Observer.