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STEARNES v. BAUR'S OPERA HOUSE

March 31, 1992

MARK W. STEARNES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BAUR'S OPERA HOUSE, INC., A DELAWARE CORPORATION, D/B/A BAUR'S OPERA HOUSE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, District Judge:

OPINION

The Constitution does not guarantee to each patron of a bar and dance hall the right to hear the music he or she prefers.

Baur's Opera House is a dance bar in Springfield, the capitol city of Illinois, and this lawsuit — brought under the public accommodation provision of § 2000a of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — alleges that Baur's discriminated against Plaintiff because he was black.

Specifically, Plaintiff says that the Baur's manager:

(1) refused to play "rap" music;

  (2) changed musical selections from those blacks
  "enjoy" to those whites "enjoy;" or
  (3) told a black patron that the music selection
  was changed "to keep blacks out."

Did any of these acts equate to an intentional pattern which effectively denied blacks from using and enjoying Baur's facilities on the same basis as whites?

The answer must be no. Plaintiff was admitted and did use the public facilities at Baur's.

I. FACTS

On February 4, 1990, Plaintiff was admitted to Baur's in the company of at least one black woman. At approximately 1:00 a.m., Plaintiff's female companion inquired of the manager why the music had been changed to a "type . . . to which no one could dance." According to her deposition, the manager allegedly responded that it had been changed to "keep blacks out." Plaintiff's complaint alleges that after his companion returned and told Plaintiff what the manager had said, they prepared to leave.

As Plaintiff was leaving, one of Baur's bouncers allegedly accused him of walking too slowly and shoved him from behind. The bouncers then held Plaintiff to the floor despite the situation being under control and his requests to be released. The police arrived and arrested Plaintiff, charging him with assault. This charge was later dismissed.

Plaintiff brought this suit in federal court under 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000a and also various pendent state claims: negligence; false imprisonment; false arrest; and malicious prosecution. Plaintiff's federal claim alleges that due to the events which occurred on February 4, 1990, Baur's intentionally and maliciously engaged in a pattern of practice with the intent ...


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