Louisville_FourthstreetliveShelton McElroy, the plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against the Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. that owns and operates Fourth Street Live, says more witnesses have come forward alleging systematic discrimination at the downtown Louisville entertainment district. However, Cordish and the general manager of Fourth Street Live say they should be dismissed from the lawsuit, downplaying their ties to the venue that allegedly discriminated against McElroy.

McElroy’s lawsuit claims he was ejected from Sully’s Restaurant and Saloon last year due to a bogus dress code violation, after which he was arrested on charges the Jefferson County Attorney’s office eventually dropped. In addition to suing the LMPD and the nightclub’s owners and employees, he is seeking a class-action lawsuit against Cordish and its related companies, highlighting a long pattern of racial discrimination at the venues via their dress code policy.

McElroy tells Insider Louisville that more witnesses and potential plaintiffs have emerged in the suit, and he welcomes “anyone who has suffered discrimination under Cordish at Fourth Street Live to come forward so we can change the center of our city into a place where black people are welcome.”

Shelton McElroy (right)
Shelton McElroy (right)

One witness McElroy spoke of was a hostess at a Fourth Street Live venue; the woman claims the employee who trained her was rude to African-American customers, explaining to her that they discourage such customers from entering because they don’t pay or tip well. Another witness was a DJ who was allegedly told to change his music by a manager because “it’s getting too dark in here.”

Fourth Street Live general manager and Cordish employee Brad Pernaw declined to speak with IL over the phone to discuss the lawsuit, directing inquiries to Cordish spokeswoman Cari Furman.

Furman sent IL a statement from Pernaw saying Cordish expects to be dismissed from the lawsuit because it and Fourth Street Live have no connection to Sully’s.

“The allegations of Mr. McElroy simply do not involve us,” read the statement from Pernaw. “His claims involve an incident with employees of an unrelated tenant, and police officers. As such, we are moving to have all claims dismissed and expect that we will be dismissed from the case.”

Pernaw followed up by saying Sully’s was actually an “unrelated third party tenant,” and that “we have spoken with the tenant and they plan to vigorously defend itself against the allegation.”

IL followed up via email asking if Cordish has any tenants or receives any revenue at Fourth Street Live, who is the landlord of Sully’s, and why Cordish would be speaking with a tenant it supposedly has no relation with about the McElroy case.

“We have connections to certain businesses in the district such as The Sports & Social Club, however Sully’s Saloon is strictly a third party tenant,” replied Pernaw. “Our only connection to the business is as a landlord and we have no financial interest in the tenant. With any guest issue at the district we inquire with the tenant as to the specifics.”

Pernaw replied again through Furman to say that “Louisville Galleria, LLC is the landlord for Sully’s Restaurant and Saloon. We have no interest and/or ownership in the business.”

Pernaw and Furman did not respond to IL’s follow-up email asking if Cordish had a relationship with Louisville Galleria, but records from the Kentucky Secretary of State’s website show that this company has the same address as Cordish in Baltimore, and its manager is Jonathan Cordish, the vice president of Cordish. McElroy’s lawsuit claimed that Entertainment Consulting International LLC is the manager of Sully’s, and that company also lists the same address.

Daniel Alvarez, McElroy’s attorney, wrote that he seeks to “pierce the corporate veil” of Cordish in the lawsuit, saying Cordish operates through several different entities or “shells” in an attempt to receive tax benefits yet escape liability for damages.

Amber Duke, the communications manager for the ACLU of Kentucky, said in the following statement to IL that while they and other stakeholders have met with Cordish officials over the past year concerning their dress code policy at Fourth Street Live, Pernaw’s confusing effort to shift blame and responsibility would appear to render their efforts useless.

“We [The ACLU of Kentucky] reached out to our coalition partners yesterday to begin work on scheduling an overdue quarterly meeting with 4th Street Live and Cordish officials. In light of today’s bizarre, conflicting statements from 4th Street Live management about their relationship(s) with venues that operate under their umbrella, we will be suggesting clarification on this matter be a top agenda item at our next meeting.

When our groups agreed to meet regularly with 4th Street Live management and Cordish officials, we did so with the understanding that we were meeting with the people that had the power to address community concerns around racial discrimination, racial profiling, and other issues. If in fact, 4th Street Live has ‘no connection’ to the venues that are part of their property, then we need to be meeting with the officials that are connected.

Cordish Officials have voiced their commitment to making 4th Street Live a venue where all in our city are welcome. They’ve also committed to working with organizations like the ACLU of Kentucky that seek to hold them accountable. Today’s strange attempts to disassociate from venues operating on 4th Street, under their roof, are troubling departures from these commitments.”

Joe Sonka

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]