Local News
11:58 am
Fri December 21, 2012

Maker's Mark Bourbon House Subject of Racial Discrimination Lawsuit

The Maker's Mark Bourbon House and Lounge
Credit Creative Commons

A Louisville man is claiming that the Maker's Mark Bourbon House and Lounge at Fourth Street Live refused to allow him to host a party at the venue because all of the party-goers would be African-American, says a lawsuit filed this week in Jefferson Circuit Court.

Andre Mulligan alleges that the Maker's Mark Lounge "officials" asked him about the "'ratio' of 'black people' to 'white people' at the planned party during a meeting, the lawsuit said.

When Mulligan responded that all of the attendees would be African-American, the lounge's staff told him the party could not go forward, the lawsuit claims.

Mulligan and others showed up on Aug. 18 -- the day of the event -- anyway and were denied service, the lawsuit claims. Cordish security staff then allegedly told Mulligan he was trespassing while white patrons were entering the lounge "without incident."

The August situation represents a violation of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act, the lawsuit claims.

Lawsuits represent but one side of a incident, of course. Voicemail messages to Fourth Street Live and the Maker's Mark Bourbon House and Lounge were not immediately returned. A voicemail message and e-mail to the Baltimore-based Cordish Companies, which operates Fourth Street Live, was also not immediately returned. When they respond, we'll update.

Community activists held a forum soon after the incident to discuss concerns about racial discrimination at Fourth Street Live.

Meanwhile, this week's lawsuit led a writer for the alternative news website Alternet to ask on Thursday if the lounge is "the most racist restaurant in America?"

Update: The Maker's Mark distiller has issued a statement, noting that a Cordish company operates the Marker's Mark Bourbon Bar and Lounge. The statement is signed by chairman emeritus Bill Samuels Jr. and chief operating officer Rob Samuels:

Maker’s Mark licenses its name and trademark to a third party appointed by Cordish Operating Ventures, LLC, which is solely responsible for the ownership, operation and management of the Maker’s Mark Bourbon House and Lounge in Louisville Kentucky. Maker’s Mark has no ownership or involvement in the Lounge whatsoever. Maker’s Mark was unaware of the complaint filed by Andre Mulligan against the Lounge until it was covered in the media and, contrary to a published report, no one from Maker’s Mark has had any dealings with Mr. Mulligan.

“The allegations in the complaint are extremely serious and, if true, reflect behavior that is abhorrent and unacceptable, as well as absolutely contrary to the core brand values of Maker’s Mark. Maker’s Mark does not accept, and will not tolerate, discrimination in any form, and has so notified and warned the company which is solely responsible for the operation of the Lounge. While not involved in the litigation, Maker’s Mark will continue to monitor the situation closely and will take all actions it feels necessary under the circumstances.”

They're likely referring to the Alternet story, which implied that Maker's operated the bar.

Update: Cordish Operating Ventures is named as a co-defendant, along with Louisville Bourbon LLC, which does business as Maker's Mark Bourbon House and Lounge. A Louisville Metro spokeswoman said Cordish operates the lounge, but a Cordish spokeswoman says that's not true. Here's a statement from Fourth Street Live spokesman Mike Leonard:

This is a matter between a third party tenant and an individual. Neither Fourth Street Live! nor The Cordish Company nor any of their employees were involved in the alleged situation. The tenant has vigorously denied the allegations and stated they are totally false. In addition, we have conducted an independent investigation of the allegations and believe them to be without merit.