Camila Klinger, the former general manager of Skybar at 2242 N. Lincoln Ave. (now known as Fuze Nightclub) filed suit Aug. 8 in federal court against former employers and Tony Anton, the club's owner.
She alleges in her complaint, among other things, that Anton limited the number of African-American patrons allowed in the club; ordered the club's DJs to stop playing "African-American" music; and refused to book large parties over the phone with individuals with African-American sounding names.
Klinger also claims Anton treated gay and lesbian clientele less favorably than his straight patrons. She alleges in her complaint that although she started a "gay night on Sundays, Anton told [her] that the event should focus on attracting gay men and not 'butch' lesbians. Anton also told [Klinger] that he did not want any gay customers in the club on the weekends."
Klinger, who was an out lesbian during her time with Anton, said that she "believed that Anton was okay with … excluding lesbian women who did not conform with society's view of how women should dress and behave. It was clear to me that he simply wanted to exclude certain people from the club based on either race or sexuality."
She also felt that Anton allowed the Sunday night gay events because it was a way for him to make money on a night that is typically slow for clubs. She alleges in her complaint that despite having these events, Anton refused to allow any photographs to appear on the club's website or to allow any promotion of the event. Klinger said, "Anton did not want Skybar to be known as a GLBTQ bar or associated with what he viewed as the 'wrong crowd'. Anton made it clear to me that he thought GLBTQ and African-American people are 'bad for business.'"
"Before interviewing with Anton," said Klinger, "I had never heard of Skybar or any discrimination at that club. Before Skybar, I worked at a well-known Hip Hop club that prided itself on diversity and hosted a weekly GLBTQ night for years. There I never saw the discrimination I witnessed at Skybar." Asked why, if she continued to witness such serious instances of discrimination, she stayed with Skybar, Klinger replied, "I truly believed that if I stood up for what was right and refused to carry out Anton's illegal directives things would change. I naively believed that if I continued to do a good job, I would not be fired for refusing to violate the law, but in the end, that's exactly what happened."
She also claims in her compliant that she personally was harmed by working for Anton and Skybar: "I was the general manager of Skybar and found myself working for a man who did not want to be tied to African American or homosexual events. As the GM, I was the face of this night club, so to the public it looked like I was the one setting the rules. I felt my relationship with some industry promoters was also hurt because of the biased way Anton ran his business."
Anton's name is not new to allegations of racial discrimination. A story in a June 14, 2007 Chicago Sun-Rimes column reported that Anton was accused of expelling four African-American men from his Mark II Lounge in Rogers Park. Anton, after being confronted by a Caucasian patron, allegedly responded, "I'm not racist, it's just bad for business." Windy City Times attempted to contact Antonwho is represented by Richard Tilghman, IV at Ungaretti & Harrisbut received no response by the press deadline.
Ultimately, Klinger is bringing her suit against Anton and Skybar because she believed that "what they did was morally wrong and illegal." She hopes that her case will encourage others who have witnessed or experienced discrimination whether inside the club scene or elsewhere. "Our voice and knowledge are our absolute most powerful tools for any kind of change, big or small," she said.