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Race bias suits filed in W.Va.

June 24, 1997

By DAVE McMILLION

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Two black Charles Town residents have filed suits against two Berkeley County nightclubs, alleging they were denied access to the clubs last summer after their white friends were allowed into the establishments, according to U.S. District Court records.

One of the white friends was told that he "may face violence" in the Ace of Clubs along U.S. 11 in Ridgeway, W.Va., if he tried to bring one of the black people inside, according to allegations contained in the suits.

The action is the fifth suit that has been filed since March over alleged violations of civil rights at Eastern Panhandle bars.

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Nikki Morton and Charles Rash filed suits in U.S. District Court in Martinsburg on June 17 against the Ace of Clubs and Piggy's nightclub. They are seeking $600,000 each in damages, according to court records.

Also named as a defendant in the suits is Wilbur Alger Jr., according to court records.

Morton and Rash could not be reached for comment.

Alger, reached at Piggy's, declined to talk with a reporter.

Morton and Rash filed separate suits against the Images nightclub in Jefferson County on March 31, saying that their civil rights were violated when they were not allowed to enter the bar on April 6, 1996, according to allegations in U.S. District Court records.

Rash and Morton are seeking $600,000 each in damages in that case as well. Wilbur Alger Jr. was listed as a defendant in the Images lawsuit, according to court records.

On March 27, the U.S. Justice Department filed suit against the owners of Images, claiming the owners refused to allow African Americans to enter the bar. The U.S. Justice Department suit seeks a court order halting the alleged discrimination at the lounge, and requests that the nightclub make amends for past alleged discrimination, according to the Justice Department.

In the recent suits, Rash and Morton said they tried to enter the Ace of Clubs and Piggy's on June 18, 1996.

Rash and Morton said they were denied access to the Ace of Clubs because they did not have membership cards, although a white friend who was with them did not have to show a membership card when entering, the suits said.

Rash and Morton then went to Piggy's nightclub near Inwood and attempted to enter the bar with a group of white friends, the suits said. The white friends entered the bar, but Rash and Morton were unable to, according to the suits. Rash and Morton rang a buzzer "continuously for several minutes" but were not allowed inside, the suits said.

A white friend later came out of the bar and said management would not allow Rash and Morton to enter because they were black, the suits alleged.

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