Petition circles asking for Buffalo mayor to close Bottoms Up nightclub
Popular nightclub accused of racist and discriminatory practices
Taryn Shepherd had visited Bottoms Up nightclub at least five times and never had any problems. On April 14, this changed when a bouncer allegedly called Shepherd a “n***r” after telling her she had to leave.
Shepherd, a 21-year-old Buffalo native said she was shocked to see how many people came forward with similar stories after she recently posted about the incident on Facebook.
After Shepherd wrote about the incident, a Buffalo man started a petition asking Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown to close down the Chippewa Street nightclub. Bottoms Up is a popular destination for college students and is one of Buffalo’s only 18 and up venues for nightlife.
“I’d heard stories from friends, some people close to me, that they had been disrespected, but I’d always had fun,” Shepherd said. “This shows, just because it wasn’t happening to me doesn’t mean it wasn’t happening,” Shepherd said.
Shepherd reported after leaving Bottoms Up she spoke with one of the bar’s owners outside the building and told him about the incident. Shepherd said the owner didn’t apologize and told her he “didn’t care about her Facebook post.”
Shepherd said she has not been contacted by anyone from Bottoms Up since the incident occurred, but several of the employees took to Facebook to defend their workplace.
Elijah Hood, a Buffalo local of two years, started the petition that has roughly 1,131 signatures so far. The petition is an attempt to raise awareness, and “show that objectifying people of color or race has consequences,” Hood said.
“We are aware of the petition that has been circulating,” said David Robida general manager of Bottoms Up. “We take great pride in being the most racially diverse bar in the area. Not only do we have the most racially diverse crowd, we have several minority employees who have been with us for years. We work weekly with several groups from UB as well that are majority minority based so her allegations are offensive to our entire staff and our brand that we have went above and beyond over the years to build.”
Robida claimed surveillance footage reveals Shepherd instigated the altercation. Robida said numerous people have reached out the nightbar since the allegations. Some witnesses of the incident claim security “did nothing wrong,” and “most certainly” did not call Shepherd names, according to Robida.
“Of course it's easy to avoid going to the club if you’re not white, but it's not ok to do nothing about it,” Hood said. “Neglecting inequality will not change anything, humility and understanding will.”
Hood shared a time where he felt discriminated against on Chippewa Street. He entered the establishment and set his things down when a worker told him he needed to buy something if he wanted to sit down.
“I started the petition because I was a outraged by the inequality that the young lady Taryn experienced. I don't know her personally, however, I lived in Buffalo for two years and i know how Chippewa can be quite racist or unwelcoming to most African Americans at times,” Hood said.
“It’s unfortunate that race is being pulled into this situation,” Robida said. “Racism is alive and well in the country and it’s a shame some people exploit it for likes, shares and social media acceptance.”
Cletus Emokpae, a senior communication and international trade major said he and his friends have experienced similar problems at Bottoms Up .
“It happens a lot more often than people hear about it, see about it, but the fact of the matter is this is one of those things that becomes a norm of being black in America, or a minority in America,” Emokpae said.
Emokpae said he was denied entry into Bottoms Up last summer when the bouncer told him his jeans didn’t meet the dress code requirements. A friend who did get into the club later sent him a photo of another man wearing his exact jeans inside the club. The only difference he said was a white man was wearing them.
Emokpae and his friends have also watched as white females paid $5 for cover while his black friends paid $10 if they were female and $15 if they were male. Emokpae has also struggled to rent venues for events in Buffalo.
“If they hear black kids they think fights, gunshots, gangsters, but it’s crazy I always say, ‘we’re college students, we’re not hood, we’re here to get our degree and go back to where we came from and better our community, I’m not here to brawl I’m not here to shoot up clubs, I’m a college student,’” Empokpae said.
Shepherd said she hopes her story and the petition raises awareness.
“I can’t even tell you how many people wrote under the post ‘oh get over it, it’s not that serious,” Shepherd said. “Yes it is, it is that serious, especially when on my post there are tons of other people coming forward sharing similar experiences. I was amazed just to see how many people were feeling what I went through.”
Sarah Crowley is the senior news editor and can be reached at email@example.com