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Black Patrons Forced To Buy $320 Booze to Enter Flatiron Bar, Lawsuit Says

By James Fanelli | February 7, 2013 7:10am

FLATIRON — A group of black Brooklyn club-goers was forced to buy a $320 bottle of vodka to get into a popular rooftop lounge while white patrons easily gained admittance without having to pony up for booze, a new lawsuit charges.

Jermaine Sanders, 29, and three female friends are suing Flatiron hot spot 230 Fifth, accusing its bouncers of discrimination. They claim nightclub staff hurled racist remarks and ruined their night out — to the point where they no longer like to party in Manhattan.

"Since this incident the plaintiffs have almost entirely given up on frequenting night life spots in Manhattan due to the prejudice they experienced that night," the lawsuit claims.

Sanders, his brother and two friends arrived at the sprawling club at 11:10 p.m. on Feb. 13, 2010, after booking a VIP section over the phone earlier in the day. When they got to the front of the line, a bouncer stopped them, even though his girlfriend and three white female friends were already inside.  

When Sanders' girlfriend came downstairs to the door to explain that she had already purchased a $320 Grey Goose bottle that could cover 10 people, the bouncer didn't budge.

"You didn't purchase a bottle from me so go back upstairs, you guys aren't getting in," he said, according to the lawsuit filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court.

The bouncer finally relented on the condition that they bought another $320 bottle of booze — even though no other party on the rooftop had to do so, the lawsuit says.

"They had to agree to terms and conditions that were different from what a white patron was subjected to," Sanders' lawyer, Fred Lichtmacher, told DNAinfo.com New York.

"It's hard to understand how this was allowed to go on."

Later when Sanders' three black female friends, Nyisha Haynes, Niyah Cook and Julia Cook, arrived at the club, they were turned away while 45 non-black patrons were admitted, the lawsuit says.

"The bouncer told [the women] there was no more room and there were no more bottles," the lawsuit says.

Despite Sanders' protests that his group had bought two bottles — enough for 20 guests —  the bouncer wouldn't admit the women. He then repeatedly called Haynes and the Cooks "black b----es" and told them, "I let enough of you up here tonight."

The women, who are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said they spent 30 minutes standing in the cold.

Michael Scharf, a managing member of 230 Fifth, told DNAinfo.com New York that the lounge had not yet been served with the lawsuit.

"It sounds preposterous to me," he said. "We don't discriminate. We have African-American customers every night and value their patronage."

In 2011, 16 black men sued 230 Fifth for $500 million, claiming they were booted from the bar after then-owner, Steven Greenberg, started screaming at the staff that they would "f--- up my $10,000 sofa" with a cake they brought. 

Greenberg died at 68 last February.

"Greenberg was one of the least race-conscious people I know," Scharf said. "He had many close friends who were African-Americans."