When Michelle Chaney actually won an online “Happy Hour” contest offered by the WHIM Nightclub in Station Square, she was surprised. But added she was even more surprised by the treatment she received after arriving for her party, which was anything but “happy.”
According to the Whim website, contest winners could pick any Friday in July or August for their night out and would receive VIP seating, drink specials—$2 drinks and $3 beer, or $30 all-you-can–drink bar.
Chaney was told in a June 5 email that she had won, and in addition to the above offers, she would also receive a $100 gift card, good for her next visit if she brought 25 or more guests. If she had fewer than that, but more than 15, she’d get a $50 card.
All she had to do was select a date. She chose Aug. 30, she said, because it gave her friends, many of whom are working mothers enough advance notice. However, she said, it was apparently not enough notice for WHIM, which had booked an event for that evening, a Bingo Players event catering to a mostly younger, Whiter crowd.
“From the beginning, it was nothing we were promised,” Chaney said. “The VIP section they had for us fit maybe seven people, the bartender, who I was told to ask for, said the specials we were promised were not on that night, and the manager, who I set this all up with by email, was very dismissive—but was all smiles to the White event crowd.”
With everything being arranged via email, Chaney said, Event Coordinator Devin Billingsley, with whom she corresponded, had no idea she was Black until she and her mostly African-American party of guests arrived.
“I used my work email at the bank, and I’m not named Tamika,” she said. “It was a weird vibe like I wasn’t who they were expecting at all.”
Reached by email, Billingsley said neither she nor the club discriminated against Chaney or her party, and said she only “got rude and turned (her) back on” Chaney after she swore at her and called her a “dumb White bitch.”
Billingsley said her intern tried to reach her about the party being added and about possibly rescheduling, but got no response.
“When we didn’t hear from her we assumed she was either canceling or leaving it on the 30th,” Billingsley wrote. “On the 30th, she actually text me about the party and I confirmed but again reminded her, with a picture of the flyer asking if it was okay. I also answered her main concern…was CIROC a part of the open bar package. It is not. I never got a reply. The promoter and our venue were well aware of the possibility of her coming and we most certainly had a VIP section set aside for her.”
Billingsley said it was Chaney who was rude, cursing at the bartender and at her.
“I was instructed to keep my distance and our head of security got involved,” Billingsley said. “She was trying to say I was racist and raising her voice more and more. Once it’s in their hands its no longer in mine.”
Desiree Trent, a coworker of Chaney’s, admitted they were venting, loudly, about the service, but among themselves. No one was yelling at Billingsley or the bartender.
“I was right there with Michelle when we got there. She (Billingsley) was rude and abrupt with us, like ‘it’s a freebie, so you’re not important,’” said Trent. “She was not interested in accommodating us. I felt like a stereotype.”
Chaney said she’s trying to put it out of her mind because just thinking about getting one drink after paying for the $30 bar, $15 for parking, and having friends from Butler, Beaver, and even Florida treated badly, just makes her mad.
“I didn’t care about the club music or the mostly White crowd. I can party with anybody,” she said. “If the service had been better we’d have stayed and had a good time. But we were made to feel unwanted—and we were invited. I’m never going back there in my life.”
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