Dorchester Bar Agrees to Pay $100,000 to Resolve Race Discrimination Suit
AG’s Lawsuit Alleged Peggy O’Neil’s Unlawfully Denied Admission to Persons of Color; Settlement Requires Comprehensive Policy Changes and Anti-Discrimination Training for Staff
BOSTON – A Dorchester bar and its owner have agreed to pay up to $100,000 to resolve a civil rights enforcement action alleging that they repeatedly and unlawfully denied admission to people of color, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.
The consent judgment, entered on Thursday in Suffolk Superior Court, resolves a lawsuit filed in 2011 against Limerick Co., Inc. (d/b/a Peggy O’Neil’s Bar & Grille) and owner Caron O’Neil. According to the complaint, and other pleadings in the case, Peggy O’Neil’s allegedly refused to admit African-American, Hispanic, and Cape Verdean patrons on multiple occasions. Each time, Caron O’Neil or her staff allegedly told these individuals that they could not enter the bar because they did not “know the owner” and that the bar did not want any “trouble” or “problems,” while at the same time admitting white patrons.
“Massachusetts businesses should not subject individuals to discrimination of any kind, including decisions that are based on prejudice or stereotypes,” AG Coakley said. “Businesses owe it to their customers and their communities to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that they operate free from all forms of discrimination.”
According to the terms of the settlement, Peggy O’Neil’s and Caron O’Neil must pay $80,000, which will be used to compensate the victims and to reimburse the Commonwealth for attorneys’ fees and costs incurred during the litigation. The remaining $20,000 is suspended pending compliance with the terms of the consent judgment.
The consent judgment also includes a permanent injunction prohibiting Peggy O’Neil’s from violating the Massachusetts Public Accommodations Law. The injunction specifically precludes Peggy O’Neil’s from denying entry, requiring a different or inflated cover charge, or requiring a different standard to qualify for entry based on a patron’s actual or perceived race, color, or national origin. In addition, the consent judgment requires Peggy O’Neil’s to adopt and adhere to comprehensive policy changes regarding admissions and to ensure that its staff members attend a training program provided by the AG’s Civil Rights Division.
Suffolk Superior Court previously entered a preliminary injunction against the defendants in September 2011, and the case was scheduled to go to trial later this month.
The AG’s lawsuit against Peggy O’Neil’s was filed pursuant to the Massachusetts Public Accommodations Law and Consumer Protection Act. The Public Accommodations Law makes it unlawful for any business that solicits or accepts the patronage of the general public to distinguish among customers on the basis of their race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or disability. The law prohibits discrimination with respect to both admission into and treatment within places of public accommodation. The Consumer Protection Act prohibits unfair or deceptive conduct in trade or commerce.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Genevieve C. Nadeau, Michelle Leung, and Jennifer Scully, and Paralegal Kasha Ambroise, all of AG Coakley’s Civil Rights Division, as well as with assistance from AG Coakley’s Civil Investigations Division.