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Hodgenville man files complaint of discrimination against Raywick bar

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By Stephen Lega, Landmark News Service

 The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights has concluded that there is “probable cause to believe unlawful discrimination” occurred at a Raywick bar earlier this year. The complaints stem from accusations that Susie’s Bottoms Up Bar and Grill and its owner, Susan Riggle, denied entrance to African-Americans.

“[T]here is strong evidence to suggest that on April 5, 2012, Susie’s Bar and Grill, at the direction and/or control of Riggle imposed and implemented a blanket prohibition against permitting any African Americans to enter its facilities and/or to participate in its goods and services,” the commission’s Executive Director John J. Johnson wrote in a letter to Riggle, dated Sept. 22.

Based on these findings, the commission noted that Riggle and the business could be subject to injunctive remedies, including the payment of monetary damages to the complainant, attorney’s fees and the costs of the action. The letter also reads that an administrative hearing will be scheduled on this matter, and the commission’s staff will attempt to resolve this matter “by conference or conciliation to the extent feasible.”

Complaints were filed against Susie’s Bottoms Up, the Fifth Wheel Bar and Grill d.b.a Susie’s Bottoms Up, and Susan M. Riggle (owner of Susie’s Bottoms Up) by Naquan Thurman of Hodgenville and George Stinson. Thurman noted in his complaint that he believes he was denied entrance to the bar on April 5 because of his race. Stinson is the chairman of the human rights commission.

Johnson’s letter to Riggle spelled out the commission’s findings.

The commission cited a digital recording posted on the Internet that appears to show Susie’s employees denying access to African Americans who were attempting to enter the bar on April 5. The commission also received affidavits from two African Americans who noted that they were among many blacks who were denied entrance to the bar that night. Johnson wrote that the affidavits accuse Susie’s employees of telling people, “We’re not letting anyone black in here tonight,” and “We’re not letting black people in tonight.”

The commission noted that Riggle did not respond to the complaints filed by Thurman, but she did respond to the complaint filed by Commissioner Stinson. The commission noted that Riggle denied banning all black people, but did state, “We did however turn away everyone (black and white) that was involved in the fight the week before.”

The commission noted that complainant Naquan Thurman had never been involved in a fight at Susie’s, and the commission expressed doubts about Riggle’s statement that anyone involved in the March 29-30 incident was turned away.

“Respondents’ bare assertions seem unsupported and/or contradicted by the weight of the evidence,” the commission wrote to Riggle. “There is no evidence at this time that any white person or group was denied access to Susie’s Bar and Grill on the day in question.”

Following the April 5 incident, Riggle made similar comments in a phone interview with The Lebanon Enterprise. She said at that time that 30 or 40 people, most of whom were black, had caused trouble outside the bar, and she added that she’d heard a sheriff’s deputy had been “jumped.”

Following the April 5 incidents, Marion County Sheriff Jimmy Clements explained that Susie’s had become a hot spot for college-aged individuals, many from surrounding counties, on Thursday nights, and because of the larger crowds, he has tried to increase the law enforcement presence in the area on Thursdays. As Susie’s was closing on March 29, a deputy told a crowd of individuals that they needed to disperse. At least one individual didn’t want to comply with the deputy’s request. The deputy received minor injuries, but he did apprehend and arrest the individual, Tim A. Thurston, a 22-year-old black Campbellsville University student, on charges of alcohol intoxication in a public place, disorderly conduct, third-degree assault and second-degree fleeing and evading.

Thurman prepared an amended complaint Aug. 25, which was filed with the commission Sept. 27. The amended complaint lists Chris Gribbins of Hodgenville and the Broken Spoke Bar and Grill as respondents. Gribbins purchased Susie’s Bottoms Up on June 13, 2012, and later reopened the business as the Broken Spoke Bar and Grill.

Gribbins was not involved in the April 5 incident. However, the complaint alleges that he and his business are “subject to successor liability” and that he should have known that Susie’s Bottoms Up was involved in litigation and an investigation by the commission.