Louisville_FourthstreetliveA coalition of social justice organizations that has met regularly with officials of Fourth Street Live and The Cordish Cos., owner of the entertainment district, announced today it will discontinue such meetings until several conditions are met, particularly the company acknowledging its alleged history of racial profiling against black customers.

The ACLU of Kentucky, Fairness Campaign and Louisville Showing Up for Racial Justice — which make up the Coalition Concerned About Cordish — began quarterly meetings with Cordish officials in January of 2013 in response to complaints about the business district’s dress code, which they believed was a veiled attempt to keep out African Americans. Though this dress code was relaxed for entrance to the district, complaints have continued about individual businesses still selectively enforcing it — particularly in a lawsuit filed this year by Shelton McElroy, an African American who was ejected from Sully’s nightclub in Fourth Street Live in late 2014.

This summer, however, representatives of the coalition took issue with Cordish’s refusal to acknowledge a single instance of discrimination in Fourth Street Live’s history, as well as Cordish’s claims that they cannot control whether individual businesses discriminate against customers, saying they are only landlords, not managers. Chris Hartman of the Fairness Campaign and Carla Wallace from LSURJ told Insider Louisville in July that due to Cordish’s refusal to acknowledge past faults and accountability for their own tenants, they questioned whether such quarterly meetings still served any purpose.

In today’s press release, the coalition makes that explicit, saying discussions with Cordish have reached an impasse and will not continue unless their agenda is focused on the company acknowledging past faults and using their power as a landlord to compel tenants to refrain from discrimination.

“Despite lawsuits, complaints, and story sharing from an untold number of African Americans who have been the victims of racial profiling at 4th Street Live! over the years, Cordish officials still refuse to acknowledge, publicly or privately, the validity of a single one of these experiences,” read the release. “The Coalition Concerned About Cordish believes acknowledging the pain these experiences have caused to individuals, and the broader community, is the first step in moving forward.”

The coalition also calls for anti-discrimination clauses to be added to the leases of Cordish’s tenants, with those found discriminating on the basis of race, gender identity or sexual orientation to have their contract terminated.

“The work we’ve accomplished over nearly three years with 4th Street Live! and Cordish Companies has been important and valuable, but it’s not enough,” wrote Wallace of LSURJ. “We are very troubled to see local businesses in the Bardstown Road/Baxter Avenue area talking about picking up the dress code model Cordish Companies brought to town, to further divide our community across racial lines when we need to be coming together.”

A divide emerged among Louisville African American leaders this summer when it came to allegations of discrimination at Fourth Street Live, with some who have taken donations from Cordish standing up for the company’s record of diversity, while others called such leaders sell outs. A report in September by the Philadelphia chapter of the National Action Network blasted Cordish’s record of discrimination by collecting the allegations of former employees and complainants at Fourth Street.

Council President David Tandy, D-4, told IL in September that he had not yet read the NAN report on Cordish — though he acknowledged privately speaking with Cordish officials about the concerns within the report — saying the truth “lies somewhere in the middle.”

Chris Poynter, spokesman for Mayor Greg Fischer, told IL in September that Fischer had not yet read the NAN report but that he planned to. The mayor’s office has not yet responded to multiple follow-up inquiries on whether he has read that report since then.

Cordish’s spokesperson has not yet responded to the coalition’s press release.

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Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]