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Vesper day club accused of racist policies

A Philadelphia woman is suing a private adults-only swimming pool club for racial discrimination, alleging the club's application process is racist against prospective black members.

On July 17, 2020, Plaintiff Raina Stewart filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against Defendants Glu Hospitality, LLC (doing business as “Vesper Dayclub”), Vesper Holdings, LLC, Derek Gibbons and Tim Lu.

Vespers Dayclub is a members-only establishment with a 30,000-gallon swimming pool, bungalows, daybeds, outdoor showers, three bars and food service. Raina Stewart is a 24-year-old black college graduate..

To access the club, either membership or invitation by a member is required. Last July, Stewart first visited Vespers with a white friend who is a member. Stewart liked the club’s atmosphere so much that she decided to apply for membership. The application only asks for the applicant’s identifying information as well as social media accounts such as Facebook or Instagram. Stewart applied for membership and didn’t get any response for several weeks.

The Complaint alleges “Plaintiff’s on-line application was submitted, she confirmed it was received, and she never heard back from defendants. She was never granted or accepted for membership; and instead, she was ignored and never received the courtesy of even a follow-up call, e-mail, or explanation for non-consideration (or in other words, rejection”).

Stewart wasn’t concerned until she learned that her black friend also did not receive a response to her application for membership, yet two white friends were granted membership within 48 hours of submitting their applications.

Stewart notes that online reviews of the swimming pool club also accuse it of racism. Indeed, several Yelp reviews and other online forums have reiterated the club’s racist policies. By way of example, one black female posted: “FLAT OUT RACIST. In order to get a membership, you have to fill out an application with your pictures / social media, then you have to wait to be approved or denied.

They purposely are only accepting white people and if you look on their social media you can see this. I did my own personal research and asked a number of black people if they were accepted and they all said no.”

Stewart also points out that given the high level of racial diversity in the Philadelphia area, where, within a 15-mile radius, the black population ranges from 10% to 60% or more, there is “a tremendous statistical disparity in their (permitted) membership participation (further evidencing unlawful discriminatory intent).”

'The experiences Plaintiff had were demonstrative of systematic, intentional, and knowing racial discrimination against black and/or African prospective membership.

The culture in which defendants aimed to create involved minimal if any black representation within the Vesper Dayclub,” the suit alleges.

Stewart is represented by Ari Risson Karpf and Christine E. Burke of Karpf Karpf & Cerutti, in Bensalem.

“In the midst of what we hope is only the beginning of our society’s ongoing acceptance of all types of races and cultures, it is disappointing to see a ‘social club’ in the heart of Philadelphia not utilizing objective criteria for access, but instead, basing entry upon observations of a person in photographs, which creates serious concerns of potential discrimination,” said attorney Christine Burke in a statement.

Stewart is seeking punitive damages and a court order forcing the swimming pool club to be more inclusive.

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