November 3, 2010
Last week a group of Chicago Bears were denied entry into the Angels & Kings nightclub in Chicago. Apparently, they were told the club was already being leased for the night and that they were not welcome.
You know where this is going.
By next morning it was all over the Internet and in the press. The primary question was did the club deny entrance to the group because it was comprised of mostly black men? The fact that these guys were famous athletes made the story even more provocative. You’d think they’d want celebrities in the club.
In fairness to Angels & Kings, which is partially owned by Pete Wentz of Fallout Boy (ugh!), another entity was leasing the club that night. In addition, not all the players denied entry were black. And, finally, according to eyewitness accounts, several rejected Bears didn’t seem to give a shit. They would take their copious wads of money (arguably undeserved this year) to some other overrated club in Chicago’s touristy River North district, which is exactly what they did.
Still, the accusations of racial profiling by the club came fast and furious. Sorry, Mr. Wentz, but the “fallout” was brutal. Actually, it’s still going on. Inquiries are being made. The usual denials, rebuttals and arguments…
Why am I writing about racial profiling? Because not only is it disturbing and fascinating but to me it feels awfully similar to target marketing. An advertiser (Angels & Kings) targets a specific group (white men and women) to embrace his brand (upscale & hip), forsaking all others (blacks and other minorities). In fact, one could argue that maintaining the brand’s equity actually requires the brand manager to forsake all others.
Calm down. I’m not a hater; I’m just turning around an argument and framing it in the context of marketing.
But take this truth and suck on it: racial profiling occurs in every club with a gated entrance, bouncer, and cover charge. That’s what the rope is for: Keeping. People. Out.
I’ve spoken to several influential club owners in this town and they all freely admit to racially profiling customers. Furthermore, they claim it’s standard operating procedure. One told me his business wouldn’t succeed if it operated more democratically. How do they get away with it? The easiest trick is invoking a dress code. If an owner doesn’t want you in his club he needs only to find something inappropriate about your wardrobe. This happens all the time. Is it a racist agenda or is the proprietor just trying to protect his brand?
And it’s not just African-Americans getting “blacklisted.”
Recently, a popular club in Chicago’s so-called Viagra triangle became “overrun” with young Indians. According to the owner they were an invasive species, crowding out the regular customers. Via arbitrary dress codes and made up private parties, the bar’s owner began turning them away in droves. It worked. The “locusts” moved on to another field. His words not mine.
What do you think? Does a brand have a right to choose its customers? What about the age-old practice of charging men a cover but not women? Is that prejudiced? If so, where’s the uproar? Before answering any of these questions, ask yourself what you would do if, for example, you owned a club and your regular customers stopped coming in because another group was. Maybe you’re not so liberal in your own back yard.