The "right of admission," a new instrument to discriminate between "classes"
The KingBar Restaurant, a private establishment that suddenly closed on January 9 after a customer complained about allegedly discriminatory practices towards gays and blacks, has reopened its doors to the public.
The property, located on the Calle 23, No. 667, between D and E (interior), had been battling controversy for a year due to its "admission policy." It received heavy criticism, especially on the social networks, which worsened as of June of 2015.
DIARIO DE CUBA visited the KingBar to hear its management's account of events, but at first its workers refused to give any opinions and flatly rejected the accusations.
"The complaint had been in the offing. They had been having problems with customers for some time, if not with homosexuals, with blacks," said a nearby resident, who asked not to be identified.
"On several occasions there were fights outside, especially on Fridays, when things get hopping. We have had to separate people that get bounced out of there, most times by the same people," she said.
You could see it coming
On June 27, 2015 playwright Norge Espinosa was denied access to the bar. It was the second time.
"As was seen in the argument that occurred at the entrance to the KingBar, we apparently do not form part of that group of gays that must enter with the money for the ten-CUC minimum they said is required there and, of course, our informal attire does not fit the profile of the customer to which they aspire," complained Espinosa at the time, via the Internet and to alternative media.
After finding out about what had happened, a group of activists staged a "public kiss-in" in front of the venue, in protest. There was also a call for a boycott of the place on the Internet, which many people supported.
Espinosa's case is one of those which sparked the most attention. But there are many others that have not been covered, said Alberto, a gay transvestite.
"They threw Luisito, a young saxophonist, out because he kissed his friend," Alberto told DDC. "They were dancing and they gave each other a kiss because one was going outside to smoke. At that point two Security guys grabbed him and said: "Look, that can't be going on here."
"He was offended. 'What do you mean it can´t be going on? He's my partner.' After that reaction, which was a bit shrill, the owner came out and told him the same thing that he tells everyone: that he does not intend for the place to "become just a gay bar, and you have to mind your manners, for the other customers,'" he added.
"We reserve the right of admission."
The KingBar is one of Cuba's establishments that reserves the right of admission. In the absence of a law on the island protecting the consumer at all businesses and facilities, private or state, each arbitrarily sets its own rules.
"The right of admission is reserved so that the bar acquires a certain prestige and decent people frequent it. Important customers. An investment has been made for that, to create a sensation in the city. And if your customers include Mariela Castro, ambassadors, and people from important companies, you can't risk a scandal," argued Yanet, who has been to the place several times.
With regards to the barring of gays, he added, "They cannot let people into the bar who go to Las Vegas or Humbolt (a gay establishment that was closed for alleged drug use problems). Physically, in its decoration, you realize that the place is of another level. The owner took it upon himself to customize the establishment and to choose who is admitted," he added.
The KingBar has been criticized not only for its alleged discrimination against gays, but also for purportedly refusing customers based on their social class.
"I went with a friend recently and they told me that in order to sit down I'd have to be spending at least 10 CUC. I had them on me, but I didn´t intend to spend them, so I left," said Reuben.
"I think that in Cuba, as consumers we need to let owners know that this is a terrible public relations strategy. In the end the place was empty at 10:00 pm on a Friday night. I went to another place, had a blast, and spent ten CUC, but because I wanted to," he said.
Prohibiting access based on a priori criteria violates Articles 41, 42 and 43 of the current Constitution, which states that "all citizens have equal rights."
"Discrimination based on race, skin color, sex, national origin, religious beliefs and any other offense against human dignity is prohibited and punishable by law," it stipulates.
As with many other aspects of life in Cuba, what the Constitution states and reality are two different things. The emergence of private spaces creates new challenges and sheds more light on phenomena that exist, even though many wish to deny them: discrimination, racism, and class differences.
Private clubs and bars constantly and openly engage in discriminatory practices by refusing access to people they consider unsuitable based on their standards.
Thus, well-trained doormen refuse entrance to people who are not well dressed, or young people who look like students that cannot spend more than five CUC when they go out. In contrast, they give a warm welcome to those who arrive in their own cars or are wearing expensive clothing or jewelry.
The need for reservations and the venue's capacity are some of the excuses employed to deny people entry. The truth is that some private venues have decided to target Cuba's wealthy while denigrating and humiliating the country's everyday people.
The absence of legislation and public policies means that their constitutional rights, of which the Government proudly boasts, are not guaranteed.
In a second experience with KingBar, Anita, one of the employees, reported that the locale had reopened after having dealt with the "misunderstanding."
It seems that neither the "public kiss-in" protest or all the criticism have made any real difference, as there is no guarantee that the reopening means a change in the bar's "admissions policy."