The Department of Justice in Washington D.C. (Getty Images)
A woman will step away at least temporarily from the operations of a Rapid City hotel and bar to resolve allegations of discrimination against Native Americans, and the business will also issue a public apology, according the U.S. Department of Justice.
The department announced over the weekend that it entered into a consent decree with the owners and operators of the Grand Gateway Hotel and Cheers Sports Lounge and Casino.
Under the consent decree, which must be approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota, Connie Uhre will be barred from serving as an officer or director of the company or from exercising any management duties or being involved in any operations on behalf of the Grand Gateway Hotel for four years. The defendants will also issue a public apology and send it to tribal organizations in South Dakota and throughout the Great Plains.
The department’s lawsuit alleged the defendants prevented Native Americans from booking rooms at the hotel and made public statements discouraging Native Americans from setting foot on the property.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a news release that the actions were “reminiscent of a long history of prejudice and exclusion Native American communities have faced.”
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said the defendants’ conduct was “egregious, motivated by naked animus, and amounted to an outright ban on Native American customers seeking access to a public establishment.”
South Dakota U.S. Attorney Alison J. Ramsdell called the Justice Department’s actions “a forceful reminder to all business owners in South Dakota that refusing services on the basis of race is against the law and will not be tolerated.”
The department’s lawsuit, filed in October 2022, alleged that the Retsel Corporation and two of its directors, Connie Uhre and Nicholas Uhre, had discriminated against Native American customers.
Specifically, the complaint alleged that in March 2022, Connie Uhre told other Rapid City hotel owners and managers that she did “not want to allow Natives on property … The problem is we do not know the nice ones from the bad natives … so we just have to say no to them!” Uhre then announced on Facebook that “[w]e will no long[sic] allow any Native American” in the Grand Gateway or in the Cheers Sports Lounge and Casino.
The complaint further alleged that on at least two occasions in March 2022, the defendants turned away Native Americans who sought to book rooms.
The consent decree requires that the defendants retain a compliance officer to oversee compliance with its terms, implement and publish an anti-discrimination policy, institute a complaint process, undergo training, and develop an affirmative marketing plan. Those provisions will be in effect for the next three years.
While the consent decree resolves the Justice Department lawsuit, the business is also a defendant in other litigation that remains pending.
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