Houston lawyer files discrimination lawsuit against Washington Avenue nightclub

An attorney, who is African-American, has filed a federal discrimination complaint after saying he was wrongfully denied entry to a nightclub on Washington Avenue near downtown Houston in because of their race and sex.

Willie Powells is a personal injury lawyer whose face is on the city’s billboards. In September 2021, Powells says he went to the Sugar Room at 5120 Washington Avenue to celebrate a former employee at a combined birthday/going away party.

Powells said he was stopped at the door and couldn’t get in because of holes in his jeans.

According to the lawsuit, “He was stopped by the ‘head of security’ and told he couldn’t attend the event because he had ‘holes’ in his jeans. Attorney Powells pointed out to the head of security that he had no holes in his jeans, but the jeans were designed to look like they had patches in. The jeans were clean and not wrinkled.

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“I explained to them that there were no holes; showed them there were no holes, and they basically said you still couldn’t get in,” Powells said. “While I’m waiting people are actually walking by with holes in their pants.”

He said he started videotaping outside while waiting to tell his friends, who hadn’t arrived yet, that he couldn’t enter the Sugar Room because of his attire. Powells says the video he captured shows non-black men and women with holes in their pants being let in.

“One person came in with holes the size of rocks, their knees were all out,” said Powells, who said he questioned the person working at the door. “He said, oh but that doesn’t apply to women.”

As of April 26, 2022, the Sugar Room’s website did not indicate there was a dress code for men or women.

“I thought maybe people would stop doing that. Clubs would realize that people should be treated fairly and obey the laws,” said Randall Kallinen, the civil rights attorney representing Powells in the lawsuit.

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The discrimination lawsuit, which lists Powell’s accomplishments in his career and in the community, seeks $1 million in damages in total. The suit indicates that Powells suffered “great shame, anxiety, anger, depression and other mental anguish due to these events”.

KPRC 2 has reached out to Sundown Entertainment, owner of the nightclub, for a response to the lawsuit, but so far there has been no response to our requests for comment.

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