- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 27, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — In a case closely watched by San Francisco’s homosexual community, a city commission found that the owner of a popular homosexual nightclub discriminated against black patrons and violated local civil rights codes.

After a 10-month investigation, the San Francisco Human Rights Commission found that the club Badlands required multiple forms of identification from some black customers, used discriminatory hiring practices, applied a dress code only to black patrons and denied entry using other policies rarely applied to whites.

The commission also said Tuesday that club owner Les Natali referred to blacks as “non-Badlands customers” who should be discouraged from patronizing the club, located in the city’s predominantly homosexual Castro neighborhood.

“The Castro should be a place of homecoming for gays worldwide, and this was a betrayal of everything this community stands for,” said Don Romesburg, organizer for the community group And Castro For All, which filed the complaint. “That’s why it’s so important that we hold them accountable.”

Mr. Natali’s attorney, Paul Melbostad, disputed the findings. He said Badlands served 500,000 customers during the cited period, from 2001 to 2004, and that many of the customers were black.

“[Mr. Natali] has many very satisfied African-American customers, and he welcomes every racial and ethnic group,” he said.

The 11-member commission has no power to punish privately owned businesses, said Larry Brinkin, a compliance officer for the panel. But the report could support a complaint asking regulators to pull the club’s liquor license, he said.

John Carr, spokesman for the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, confirmed an investigation into Badlands. If the club is found to have violated state discrimination laws, Mr. Carr said, penalties could range from a warning to the loss of its liquor license.

Marvin Miller, 38, said he was elated by the decision.

Mr. Miller, who is black, said Mr. Natali badgered him for several pieces of identification at Badlands in 2003. When he finally showed a press pass for an independent cable access show, he said, Mr. Natali relented and let him in. “I was humiliated.”

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