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The four young men �- two black and two Hispanic -� were celebrating one of their birthdays that night in January. They were thinking of a club to go to and decided to try a place none had ever been to: Club 609, a popular venue next to Coconut Grove’s CocoWalk. But once they reached the club, they say their mood changed from one of jubilant merrymaking to one of humiliation and anger. The two black men in the party say they were barred from entering the club by the doorman, who allegedly said, “Sorry, bro, but you guys are too dark to come in the club.” The Hispanics were allowed in, but chose to leave with their friends. The two black men �- Ernest Brooks and James Clinton Davis, both of Miami �- have filed a lawsuit against the club in federal court in Miami, charging racial discrimination. U.S. District Judge Alan Gold has not yet set a trial date. “I hope to punish them for the act they knowingly did,” said Brooks. “I want to make 609 a place anyone can go to. This is the year 2000 … not the ’40s and ’50s. They have made me feel ashamed to be black.” Michael Popok, the West Palm Beach attorney for Club 609, vehemently denies the accusation and says the club intends to fight the lawsuit vigorously. He questions whether the young men have named the right club. “If they had to pick any club, they picked the wrong one,” said Popok. “The ownership and the staff of the club consist of two ethnic groups -� Hispanic and black. Plus the bouncers are normally black. In addition, it was hip hop night. Only two groups go that night -� African Americans and Latinos. To say an African American was turned away [because he is black] is outrageous.” But Brooks insists he and his friend were turned away that night on Jan. 6. What’s more, he said he had previously heard that blacks weren’t allowed in the club. “I had butterflies in my stomach as we approached,” he said, adding that he had called the club earlier to determine the dress code and was garbed in a silky long sleeve shirt, brown khakis and brown shoes in keeping with the “casual dressy” code. Davis, he says, was similarly dressed, in a black silky shirt, beige khakis and black penny loafers. As they waited in line, Brooks, 27, nervously told his two Hispanic friends to enter the club first. He said the doorman let in people behind him, bypassing the four men. “I said, ‘Hello, we’re here,’ ” said Brooks. The doorman, he said, let in his Hispanic friends, checked his and Davis’ IDs, and said, “ you can’t go in, you have gold teeth.” “There’s people with gold teeth in there,” Brooks retorted. That’s when the doorman said Brooks is too dark to enter, Brooks claims. Shocked, Brooks said he demanded to see the club promoter, and the doorman said, “He’ll say the same thing.” Others in line were sympathetic to him, said Brooks, including a Miami police officer working security who, according to Brooks, said, “this is racism, you should contact a lawyer.” (He did not get the officer’s name.) Brooks said he was so angry he felt like fighting the doorman, but decided to battle him legally instead. The doorman offered to retrieve his two Hispanic friends and the four left together. Brooks, a toll collector for the Florida Department of Transportation who lives with his mother, says he tried calling the manager of 609 the next day and got the run-around. That’s when he decided to hire a lawyer, Stephen Cahen, a Miami solo practitioner.

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