A Kentucky lawmaker is questioning if African-Americans should continue to patronize Fourth Street Live in the wake of a former University of Louisville basketball player’s arrest.
As WFPL reported this week, 38-year-old Jason Osborne was arrested by Metro Police on Sunday outside of Sully’s restaurant. He has been charged with criminal trespassing and resisting arrest, and a hearing is scheduled for May 24.
Osborne is a former Mr. Basketball who played for the Louisville Cardinals in the early 1990s.
Several African-American elected officials from the Metro Council and General Assembly were present at Osborne’s arraignment, and at least one lawmaker is now telling black residents to avoid the entertainment district until these mattes are settled.
“All of us have received complaints of perceived harassment and disrespect at Fourth Street Live. I might go down for lunch during the day, but I don’t go down there after 5 o’clock. You run a risk,” says state Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville. “The record is clear and my mama told me where there’s smoke there is fire. There’s a whole lot of smoke coming out of Fourth Street Live as it relates to African-Americans.”
Fourth Street Live first opened in 2004, and it is owned and operated by The Cordish Company, a Baltimore-based developer. It has received heft public financing from Metro Government, however.
For almost a decade many African-American residents have complained of racial discrimination regarding the entertainment district’s dress code and other practices at its nightclubs. There have been a series of lawsuits and protests over such.
Last December, a suit filed against Maker’s Mark Bourbon House and Lounge by a local promoter alleged it refused to host a party at because all of the party-goers would be black.
In a statement to WFPL, the general manager for Fourth Street Live said the incident had nothing to do with Cordish security.
“There was no altercation whatsoever between Fourth Street Live! security and the individual,” says Jim Layson. “The police determined the individual needed to leave the premises, escorted the individual off-property, and ultimately arrested the individual.”
But a April 28 police report obtained by WFPL claims Osborne and a female friend were “involved in (an) altercation with Foutrth Street Live security” after they were kicked out of Sully’s. Asked to comment on the reaction from local black officials, Layson issued a stronger statement denying such.
“Any allegation that this was based on race is completely without merit,” he says. “We trust that the public has faith in the Louisville Police Department to make an arrest that is unbiased as to race. Inquiries on this matter should be directed to the police department.”
Unlike previous incidents, however, Osborne is a prominent figure in the community who is also a personal friend of state Rep. Reginald Meeks of Louisville, who attended the arraignment. And leading up to the Kentucky Derby it could be further scrutinized.
In a telephone interview with WFPL, Meeks says the altercation stemmed from Osborne’s female companion, 32-year-old Jacquelynn Russell, leaving Sully’s to bring in a white female friend. According to Meeks, security allowed the white female to enter but denied Russell from coming back in the club.
The police report, however, claims Russell was asked to leave by Sully’s general manager but became belligerent and was “causing an alarm to patrons.”
Louisville Metro Councilman David James says African-American elected leaders attended the Osborne hearing not to pass judgment in the case. Rather, lawmakers were there to carefully watch what constituents have called a pattern of incidents involving black patrons.
“We have a tremendous amount of tax dollars involved in the Cordish property on Fourth Street, and those tax dollars come from a very diverse population. So that diverse population deserves to be treated equally and fairly when they come to Foruth Street Live,” says James, who attended the arraignment along with council members David Tandy, Barbara Shanklin and Cheri Bryant Hamilton.
Meeks and Owens admit Osborne’s high-profile stature has brought more attention to the issue than usual, and both want Mayor Greg Fischer to speak to this recent incident.
“The mayor needs to bring a stop to this,” says Owens. “The question is whether or not it’s going to be high on his agenda. Everything is a matter of priorities. And if in fact it’s a priority to him he’ll stop it. They’ll get the message and they’ll do what they have to do.”
A Fischer spokesman says the mayor is reserving comment now that the matter is in the courts, however.