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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Social justice activists had harsh words for the leaders of Fourth Street Live! on Monday.
Dozens of protestors rallied at the entrance of the downtown entertainment district pushing for changes to the dress code policy. This comes after Fourth Street's operator, the Cordish Company, battle a racial discrimination lawsuit.
ACLU leaders said the company outlined customer service changes in a closed door meeting last December, but hasn't followed through.
Critics say the dress code is inconsistently enforced, and targets people of color.
Theresa Boyd of Connected Voices still gets angry thinking of how she was treated on 4th street last summer.
"We were going to go to the Improv," said Boyd. "I had on a summer dress and he had on slacks, flats and a silk shirt. We were definitely dressed appropriately for the evening."
Boyd said they were stopped by Fourth Street Live! reps after they said the man she was with wasn't dressed appropriately.
"Not all cultures of people dress alike," Boyd said. "If you're going to have a venue here on Fourth Street that is to cater to all walks of life, then they need to be respective and representative of all walks in their procedures."
Michael Aldridge, executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky, said the dress code is nothing less than racism.
"Businesses are allowed to put forth dress policies," Aldridge said. "They have that right. But they cannot use those policies as a means for racial discrimination"
Fourth Street's dress code policy is clearly laid out on its Web site. Smart, casual attire is recommended. Sweatsuits, sagging clothes or profanity on clothing will get you turned away. Officials say 4.5 million people visit the block each year, the majority of which do not encounter problems.
Still, the Cordish Company, which operates Fourth Street Live! faces a racial discrimination lawsuit, along with Maker's Mark Bourbon house and lounge.
It stems from a party this summer where a black man says he was denied entry. Leaders hosted a forum then and met again with concerned citizens in December.
They say changes were outlined -- including only supervisors being able to deny access, and those turned away would receive valet parking passes for their return.
But protesters say the measures haven't been implemented.
John Michales, a former Fourth Street Live! security supervisor, says workers are trained to check for fake ID's, not judge clothing.
"I would boycott this place," Michales said. "What we're doing here is a good thing. We need this community to come together, and I just think it's going to be a never ending battle."
Boyd's battle eventually ended with her entry into the comedy club. She now wants her story to help ignite change.
"It made me feel really bad," Boyd said. "I mean, I work....and to be denied entry.....was really a slap in the face."
Representatives of The Cordish Company say claims of discrimination in the dress code are false.
Leaders put the policy on their Web site, and opened up a 1-800 line for customers who have questions.
A statement from Fourth Street Live! was issued late Monday afternoon, stating:
"Our management team has worked with and will continue to work with various community groups and greatly values open dialogue...Fourth Street Live! uses a third party, respected national company for its security and dress code application, and of course, demands the dress code be applied fairly and in a uniform, non-discriminative manner. Any statement otherwise is completely false."