The D.C. Office of Human Rights ordered a full investigation yesterday into nightclub admission and employment practices following a preliminary hearing into allegations of racial discrimination at local discos.
About a dozen persons, including representatives from the city's gay, Hispanic and black communities, appeared at the hearing, which was sponsored by the rights office and the city's Alcohol and Beverage Control Board.
"I am amazed that the laws of this city are being violated to this extent," Robert Lewis, chairman of the ABC Board, commented after the hearings yesterday.
Anita Shelton, director of the city's Human Rights Commission, said, "These hearings have been enlightening. There is reasonable evidence to call for a full investigation of some nightclubs in this city."
The hearings were scheduled following an article in The Washington Post in May that quoted a number of well-to-do black Washingtonians as saying they had been denied admission to certain nightclubs because of race.
One such club mentioned was elan, located at 2020 K St. NW. Mike Schanlon, a marketing consultant for elan, told the hearing "there is no basis to support this." Schanlon repeated the ealn management's assertion that "we have no quotas or other formulas. We do not use race as a basis of admission."
Schanlon's claim was later contradicted by several witnesses who said they had been "humiliated" and "belittled" by elan's before being turned away.
"I couldn't believe this kind of thing still occurred in the District of Columbia, in a city 79 percent black," said Valerie Ducker, a program analyst for Wider Opportunities for Women. "This Schanlon guy does not know the facts."
Devon Dupres, a public relations specialist who is white, told the hearing that elan's management had confided to her that "blacks were becoming a problem" at elan during happy hour. "That's why the membership cards were instituted: to keep out some of the blacks. That's what I was told."
When asked who told her, Dupres said she would supply the rights office with more information in private. $&(WORD ILLEGIBLE
There were few specific examples of racial discrimination cited yesterday, although Dr. Kenneth Smothers, a prominent black psychiatrist, testified that he had been turned away from elan "because it was too crowded" then watched as "seven to 10 whites were allowed inside."
The Human Rights Office said it would continue its investigation to ascertain the effectiveness of existing legislation "in protecting the rights of those covered by the Human Rights Law of 1977." That law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex and religion.
Bob Davis, a spokesman for the city's Gay Activists Alliance, told the hearing that nightclubs regularly discourage entrance by minorities by making "excessive" demands for identification.
"Discrimination in D.C. is just as pervasive as it ever was," Davis said. "Establishments nowadays are just more subtle and cautious about how they handle it. CAPTION: Picture, MIKE SCHANLON..."no basis" for charges