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Two racial discrimination lawsuits filed against bar

April 01, 1997

By DAVE McMILLION

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - In the third racial discrimination suit to be filed in less than a week, two Charles Town, W.Va., residents are suing a Jefferson County nightclub, claiming their civil rights were violated when they were not allowed to enter the bar, according to court records.

Charles E. Rash, who is black, said when he tried to enter Images bar last April, a bouncer at the club said the bar had a policy of not allowing blacks to enter, according to a suit Rash filed in U.S. District Court in Martinsburg Monday.

The bouncer said he had admitted blacks into the bar previously, and was fired for his actions, Rash's suit alleges.

Nikki Morton of Charles Town, W.Va., has filed a similar suit against Images in U.S. District Court, and together, Rash and Morton are seeking more than $1 million from the club, according to court records.

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Last Friday, the U.S. Justice Department announced it had filed suit against Images nightclub, alleging that the owners refused to allow African Americans into the bar, which is located along W.Va. 51 about a half mile east of the Berkeley County border.

Rash and Morton said they tried to enter the bar on April 6, 1996, according to their suits.

Rash alleges in his suit that he was not allowed to enter Images because he did not have a membership card. At the same time, a white couple was allowed into the bar without having to show any membership card, Rash's suit alleges.

Rash is asking for $600,000 from Images for what the suit alleges was "malicious, intentional and gross misconduct."

Morton also is seeking $600,000 from Images, according to her suit.

Rash and Morton could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

The Justice Department suit alleges that Images falsely told African Americans who wanted to enter the club that it was private and open only to members. White customers, however, were routinely admitted without regard to membership, the Justice Department alleges.

Wilbur Alger Jr., named as a defendant in the lawsuit, could not be reached for comment.

Richard L. Douglas, who represents Images, said he was not familiar with the two most recent suits.

Douglas, however, called the Justice Department suit "very perplexing."

Douglas said he met with Justice Department officials on Feb. 25 to discuss discrimination complaints involving Images. Although the owner of the club denied discriminating against anyone, the lounge agreed to run ads in a local paper saying that the club was open to all races, according to Douglas.

Douglas said he was surprised the Justice Department suit was filed because it appeared both sides were content following the Feb. 25 meeting.

"That's not how business is done around here," said Douglas.

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