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Lincoln Park nightclub biased against blacks, says ex-manager

CamilKlinger’s lawsuit alleges thAnthony Antowner nightclub Fuze formerly called Skybar fired her because she refused “start enforcing racial quotas.”

Camila Klinger’s lawsuit alleges that Anthony Anton, owner of the nightclub Fuze, formerly called Skybar, fired her because she refused to “start enforcing the racial quotas.” | John H. White~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 16, 2011 1:26AM

It is not unusual for popular watering holes to bar African-American males because of a dress code.

If black guys are wearing baggy jeans and a $140 pair of Jordans, they can forget about getting in most clubs. On the other hand, white guys can get past security guards wearing frayed khakis and faded T-shirts.

But discrimination in the club scene has been hard to ferret out. That may soon change, thanks to a whistle-blower who claims to have witnessed the discrimination firsthand.

Camila Klinger, 27, was fired as general manager for a popular bar in Lincoln Park in 2010. Two weeks ago, she filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that Anthony Anton, the owner of Fuze (formerly known as Skybar) at 2242 N. Lincoln, routinely used illegal tactics to limit the number of African Americans in the club.

Anton did not return se­veral phone calls seeking comment about the lawsuit. His attorney, Michael Ficaro, also did not return my phone calls.

But this is not the first time that someone has accused Anton of discriminating against African Americans.

In 2007, a Caucasian male contacted me after he allegedly witnessed four black patrons being denied admittance to the Mark II lounge in Rogers Park, another bar that Anton owns.

The African Americans walked away after being told the bar was closed to the public for a private party. The white patron overheard the false claim and was so outraged, he chased the group down and advised them of the scheme.

At that time, Anton swore up and down that the man’s allegations were false.

But when an insider steps forward, it is a lot harder to dismiss the charges.

Among other things, Klinger’s suit alleges that Anton’s discriminatory practices included: Telling her that there were too many black people in the club; ordering her to tell the DJs to stop playing African-American music so black patrons would leave, and raising the club’s cover charge and cost for party packages for black customers so they would choose to go elsewhere.

“Anton made it clear to Klinger that certain racial minority groups, particularly African Americans, were not welcome in the club,’’ the suit states.

“Something inside of me felt that this was not acceptable in any form,” Klinger told me in an interview at her lawyer’s office. “I felt like I had to speak out. A lot of people see things, they witness things and they don’t have the means and resources to bring some kind of awareness. I feel like the only way for good to come out of this is if I expose this.”

Klinger attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has managed nightclubs in the Chicago area in the past. She started working at clubs part time and moved up the ranks.

Within two weeks of being hired at Fuze, “Anton required plaintiff to cancel the regular hip-hop night and fire the event’s African-American promoters because it drew a primarily African-American crowd,’’ the suit says.

Klinger said in our interview that Anton told her the Thursday night events were “too dark.”

“He said there were problems, but there were never any problems,’’ she said. “These were college kids.”

One of the black promoters who worked with Klinger agreed to talk about the discriminatory treatment on the condition of anonymity.

“Essentially, I was being told I could not bring a certain amount of African Americans. The owner really wanted to have more Caucasians at the venue,” she told me in a phone interview. “This is something that goes on in a lot of spaces.”

Things came to a head on a Sunday night when Klinger said she was called on the carpet after an African American and a Latino got into a fight in the bar.

“This was the only time there was a fight,” she said.

The suit states that after the incident, Anton told her “that she needed to start enforcing the racial quotas and that if she would not do it he would find someone who would.”

Added Klinger: “When I said what he was asking me to do was morally wrong and illegal, he said I had to leave.”

Klinger’s lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of punitive and compensatory damages. Jill Weinstein, Klinger’s attorney, said the only way these practices will change is if other people like Klinger speak up.

“Maybe people who hear about this case will make it clear that this is not right,” Weinstein said.

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