TIMES SQUARE — Times Square megaclub Circle NYC has agreed to pay $20,000 in fines and thousands more in restitution for discouraging or outright barring would-be patrons based on their race and ethnicity, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Thursday.
On numerous occasions last year, Schneiderman said, the 41st Street club admitted customers of Korean descent while denying revelers of other races and ethnicities, either forcing them to buy pricey perks to get inside or prohibiting them outright from entering.
"The methods of exclusion included forcing those of latter groups to make reservations in advance, or buy expensive bottle service, while not requiring the same of the club's Korean patrons and enforcing the nightclub's dress code unevenly," the Attorney General's Office described in a statement.
The office's Civil Rights Bureau opened an investigation in June 2012, after Circle NYC racked up nearly a dozen complaints from clubgoers.
One of those victimized was Patrick Thomas, who is African-American, and said he felt "insulted and degraded" after being barred entry.
"When I realized that I wasn't getting into Circle because of my race, I was shocked," Thomas, a complainant in the investigation, said in a statement. "Nightclubs, restaurants, theaters, hotels and other businesses can't just shut people out because of the color of their skin or where they are from."
Under the agreement reached with the state, Circle NYC will have to pay between $500 and $2,000 to clubgoers deemed victims of its policies. The club's owners also pledged to adopt a new dress code and reservation policy, and train its employees to apply those rules "in a fair non-discriminatory manner." Circle is also required to investigate any complaints of discrimination and report its findings to the Attorney General's Office.
"Any business in New York State that is open to the public must be open to all races and ethnicities," Schneiderman said in a statement. "Discrimination will not be tolerated. That's just as true in New York City's vibrant nightclubs as it is anywhere else."
Circle NYC did not return calls for comment.
However, on its website, the club wrote the following message: "State and local laws prohibit Circle Nightclub and other places of business from discriminating against them on the basis of race, color, ethnicity or gender or denying entry for any of these reasons."
The club's site urged anyone who felt they'd been made victims of discrimination to contact Circle NYC's manager. It also provided the phone number and email address for the Attorney General's Civil Rights Bureau.