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1980s

Nightclub Ordered to Lift Race Ban

In November 1983, a Birmingham nightclub was ordered to open its doors to black and Chinese people after having previously barred these groups. The year-long investigation into Pollyanna's was held after two separate complaints alleging the club had a racist entry policy.

The first complaint was from the sales manager of a local cosmetics company who tried to book Pollyanna's for a Christmas party, but the reservation was refused by nightclub Manager John Weston-Edwards when he discovered a large proportion of the group was black. In the second case, the nightclub owner told a university lecturer she could not bring a group of students to Pollyanna's because they were Chinese. The club's management said they barred both white and black people if it disapproved of their attitude or the way they were dressed.

CRE logoThis case was the first non-discrimination notice issued by the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) since it was formed. The owners, Genture Restaurants, had to provide evidence that they were complying with the order over the next two years, or they would face prosecution.

Mr Weston-Edwards, Genture's Chairman said he would ignore the CRE notice; he told the BBC he had to limit the numbers of ethnic minorities in his nightclub to preserve a 'happy situation' and avoid aggressive confrontations: 'We'll operate as we have done for the last 10 years - I think we have to limit all sorts of people and coloured people fit into that category,' he said.

The CRE finally took the club to court in 1979 and imposed injunctions stopping them from practising discrimination. Pollyanna's finally closed in 1987 when Genture Restaurants was dissolved.

Clubs that barred particular ethnic and racial groups from entering were not uncommon; in 1968 the Bradmore Working Men's club refused to let in a black couple for their annual work Christmas party and the Old Fletton Club in Peterborough banned all non-naturalized, non-Commonwealth foreigners from membership.

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