Monday, May 11, 2009

Tillman's Bar and Lounge's Selective (aka Racist) Door Policy

On Saturday night two friends and I went out for a late night hang. In search of a place where we could chill out and catch-up, I suggested Tillman's Bar and Lounge for no other reason than the fact that it was close to our meeting point and I knew they would be open late. While friend number one searched for parking I got out and asked the bouncer a few basic questions that progressed (or digressed actually) like this:


Q - Can we park on this block after 1(AM)?
A - No. They ticket and tow.


Q - How late is the kitchen open?
A - 2AM, but we're only accepting reservations right now.


Q - Reservations? Er so you mean there is no room at the bar either?
A - No only reservations for the bar too...


Q - So basically your saying we can't get in huh?
A - That's right.


Initially, I wasn't THAT taken aback by the downward spiral of this conversation. I figured the place was packed; unusual yes in these times, but hey you never know. So I tried unsuccessfully to reach my other friend by cell so she wouldn't waste her time searching for a spot but she eventually came strolling up and after hearing that they wouldn't take us, she decided to make a second attempt. At just that same moment, the hostess came out and my friend asked her instead about the availability and contrary to my exchange with the bouncer, she welcomed us all in with a smile.

Hmmmmmm.


So we enter the vestibule; not forgetting to give the bouncer a dirty look as we stepped inside. We walk through the short dark hall and right before we pull back the the heavy drapes to enter the establishment, I started preparing for my push through the crowd only to find...Tada! The place was empty!! Ok, OK they had a few bar stools and tables filled, but in no way filled to capacity. You know what I did? I left it alone...I figured I would make a small complaint to the manager on my way out and chalk the incident up to a misunderstanding or misjudgement on the part of the bouncer.

We ate. We drank. We were merry.


Upon leaving we found the manager. I described what had happened and asked him for an explanation. Here's what he had to say (paraphrased of course):

  • We DO only take reservations on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays.
  • Management has the right to be selective.
  • Well you got in didn't you? (More like a question than an answer, but arrogant nonetheless)

No denial. No apology.


My reaction?? I posed this question to myself:
WWOD? What Would Obama Do? (I borrowed this phrase from and give full credit to my best friend Kemba for this one).


Well I really don't know what he would do but the question at least calmed me down enough to keep it moving. Knowing plenty of bouncers and club owners personally, I pretty much know the rules of the velvet rope; no sneakers, no single men, no drunk people and since none of these applied to us, I could only assume that the folks over at Tillman's seem to have found a new one; The "No damn reason at all except for the bouncers' own prejudice and ignorance" policy.

In this day and age; during a time when most restaurants are going under, Tillman's has taken it upon themselves to hold tight to some randomly subjective velvet rope code that only they can decipher.

If one chooses to spend their money wisely (my thanks to AC for the drinks btw) then, I think we too as patrons should practice a variation on Tillman's policy of: Being Selective

I hope you too will join me in Being Selective by "selecting" some other place and NOT Tillman's when making future plans for a night out in NYC.


Ciao for now...
The Katalist


Epilogue - I just got off the phone with my homegurl that was with me that night (I wanted to fact-check what I described above) and she got me all fired up again about what went down only two nights ago. This is MY blog DAMMIT and if I can't write about what I'm thinkin' then WTF! Now for the real deal about all the thoughts I had regarding this incident:

Tillman's Bar and Lounge is a racist Black-owned establishment...That's right I'm taking it there. And for those of you who don't know me...I'M BLACK! and I looked DAMN GOOD that night as did my two friends. So why in the world did this bouncer screen us; no! a better term would be PROFILE us as a "DO NOT ALLOW"?

Believe it or not, I don't have many personal accounts of being a victim of blatant racial discrimination...knowingly anyway. I got a few - security following me in a department store, poor service in a restaurant, job application rejections and not being able to catch a cab, but this one is some bullshit! Why? Because it was my own people who were doing the dirty deed this time. You don't agree with me?? Maybe I'm over reacting?? Listen my anger is a base reaction; meaning, I don't need historical or psychological rhetoric to back me up or justify my feelings. I was insulted and furthermore ashamed by the behavior of two black men who under different circumstances would have probably been friends of mine in a parallel Universe (like Brooklyn or Harlem).

I jest only to alleviate and counteract my pain.

So now it ends (or maybe begins for that matter) with me having to use my powers for evil instead of good. This blog along with a viral e-mail campaign are kindling and I intend to spread the word about Tillman's. I don't care about an apology anymore. I looked for that on Saturday night. I use this vehicle to vent and I've accomplished that BUT if anyone reading this would like to make a comment to Tillman's about their "screening" policies, I've included their contact information below for your convenience....just in case you'd like for them to know your opinion.

astrid@tillmansnyc.com or
lesly@tillmansnyc.com
212.627.8320

Ciao for Now (this time for real)
The Katalist

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

My experience there wasn't pleasant either and I am never going back!

Anonymous said...

Ditto to everything you wrote. The first time I went to Tillmans was with a male friend who is clearly a regular. We were ushered in on a busy night and the hostess "found" us a spot at the bar.

The next time I went with a girlfriend and got the same treatment you and your friends did initially. We were real cute that night. It seems as though they discriminate against single women because the night I went with the male friend there were groups of men, and women with other men.

Whatever their issue I have not been back. I go where I am celebrated and not where I am tolerated.

Underdog said...

The crazy thing is I used to play there on Monday's and they would try yo not let me in then!!

spread the word...there are plenty of OTHER places that will appreciate your patronage and dollars.

joe said...

dear the katalist - remember when we went for kim's show that night and i told you that it has a reputation for being the place black men take their white girls? sounds like there could be some truth to the situation. have most of the people you've heard from been women?

Anonymous said...

Tillman's, Mr Jones, owned by Lesly Bernard, Haitian elitist who has partnered with Ilan Portal (major investor). Ilan Portal along with Perry Hiiman own NYKB.(New York Kitchen & Bath.)

They gouge their customers in order to invest in Lesly Bernard's venues as well as other restaurants.

They all should be in jail.

If you look at the Dept of Health, Tillmans was cited for some serious health violations

Anonymous said...

Tillman's, Mr. Jones and his other venues are funded by Ilan Portal and Perry Hiiman, owners of New York Kitchen % Bath.read those reviews and you understand the elitism is rampant.
They do not discriminate. All are unworthy: White, Black, Asian Muslim, Jew, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist

Anonymous said...

Yep. A few years back, having been SCREWED by Perry Hiiman and NYKB, I read a press release from Tillman's. Something about a million $ reno by NYKB. Given that *I* could do a better reno (blindfolded) than NYKB, I had a hunch that it was somehow involved with Tillman's (beyond being its contractor) and, lo and behold, when I searched NY state liquor licences, Perry Hiiman and Ilan Portal, principles of NYKB, were on Tillman's license. My partner had said I was so upset that about being financially raped by NYKB that I was dreaming up things--until we saw it there on the state website. Dirty, dirty, dirty is all I can say.

And it's true: NYKB is an equal "opportunity" con artist operation.