Continental cleared of accusations about door policy | East Villager & Lower East Sider

Continental cleared of accusations about door policy

The city has dismissed complaints that the Third Ave. bar had discriminated against people of color. Photo by Jefferson Siegel

The city has dismissed complaints that the Third Ave. bar had discriminated against people of color. Photo by Jefferson Siegel

BY JEFFERSON SIEGEL  |  A popular East Village bar has been cleared of complaints that its door policy was discriminatory.

Continental bar on Third Ave. at St. Mark’s Place was the target of complaints filed with the city’s Commission on Human Rights, as well as several demonstrations that were organized by the group Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (A.N.S.W.E.R.). Two complaints filed with C.H.R. claimed people of color were denied entry to the bar while others easily passed the bouncers’ scrutiny.

Protests drew dozens to the bar several times in 2011. There was even a Facebook page critical of the bar’s purported door policy. The bar’s owner goes by the name Trigger and sometimes Trigger Smith.

“As I have said all along, my only interest in having any door policy whatsoever is to have a safe and comfortable atmosphere in my bar by keeping out any ‘over the top’ element, be it saggy/baggy jean wearers, Jersey Shore knucklehead types or anyone else that we feel might be more trouble inside the bar than keeping outside,” Trigger said when informed of the commission’s rulings.

“I’d rather pass on the drink sales I’m losing by not letting them in, for the overall safety of the rest of our customers who just want to have a good time hassle-free,” he added.

“Both complaints [against Continental] are closed,” Clifford Mulqueen, deputy commissioner and general counsel of C.H.R., told The Villager last week. “We found no probable cause to believe discrimination occurred. The ownership of the bar provided us with videotapes showing customers that were going in and out. There was no indication that people of color were being turned away. People of color were being admitted.”

Mulqueen noted that there were no other similar complaints currently outstanding against the bar.

One of the people who filed a complaint with C.H.R., Shaniqua Pippen, 25, from Brooklyn, claimed she and three friends were denied admittance to the bar one night in June 2010. Pippen asked one of the door bouncers, who was black, why they were being denied entry.

“Do we need to be regulars or do we just need to be white?” Pippen said she asked the bouncer, and claimed he replied, “Your people don’t know how to act.”

A request for comment to one of the organizers of the protests was not returned by press time.

Continental, which opened in 1991, used to feature live rock bands nightly. But the music scene shifted to the Lower East Side and Brooklyn, and in 2006, Trigger reluctantly transformed it into a cheap shots bar — and finally actually started making money on the place.