It has been nearly one year since event promoter William Marshall was denied access to Luke Wholey’s Restaurant & Entertainment Complex, the site where he planned to host a Charity Halloween Costume Party & Steeler Game Afterparty last October. While Marshall had signed a contract and agreement for use of the venue, Wholey told him two days prior to the event that it could no longer be held at his venue.
While Marshall was later told the complex was not permitted to host non-restaurant related events, he learned Wholey has allegedly held charity events, birthday parties and swinger’s parties, where husbands and wives swapped partners. As a result, Marshall has submitted a complaint and had the complaint accepted by the City of Pittsburgh Human Relations Commission.
“I’m hoping for them to either pay us for the expenses we had or to fulfill the contract,” Marshall said. “The Human Relations Commission reviewed the complaint and decided the complaint had merit. The last straw was when I found out they did events with other groups.”
Marshall has long claimed he was barred from Wholey’s establishment because the property’s owner, Robert Sunseri, wants to keep urban events out of the Strip District.
“This is a pattern with Sunseri; that he doesn’t want to allow events that draw African-Americans to the Strip District,” Marshall said. “None of these clubs will do events that cater to African-Americans.”
Brian Van Dusen, president of Van Dusen Enterprises Inc., previously ran several clubs in the Strip District and other city neighborhoods, including H2O and Club 822. He echoed Marshall and said it’s very difficult to find a nightclub in Pittsburgh where the young urban community is accepted.
“If a club owner is White, Indian or Black, and you’re catering to a Black crowd, you’re going to have issues,” Van Dusen said.
He was especially critical of the Strip District and under-21-venue Club Zoo. He claims the venue uses dress codes to prohibit African-Americans from entering and said his son was once a victim.
“There’s a million complaints against Club Zoo. You can’t count how many times Club Zoo has turned people away, and 90 percent of the time they’re Black,” Van Dusen said. “He was with a group of friends and he was the only one who didn’t get in and all of his friends happened to be White.”
Neither Wholey nor Sunseri returned requests for comment.
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