Probe into 'racist and body shaming' door policies at central London nightclubs

Westminster council has launched an inquiry into discrimination and “body-shaming” at nightclubs in the heart of the capital.

Officials have revealed a “task group” has been created to look into the problem following recent reports of discriminatory door policies, including at exclusive clubs in areas such as Mayfair.

Body image and anti-discrimination campaigners today welcomed the move after a series of cases of alleged racism and “fat-shaming” were highlighted.

Becky Young, founder of body positivity group Anti Diet Riot Club, said: “I would be sad but not at all surprised if venues’ unofficial door policies reflected the racism and fat-phobia that exists throughout the UK. 

“People in larger bodies are consistently discriminated against in the workplace, in healthcare, and in cultural settings where they are often excluded socially or physically from accessing spaces.”

Speaking out: plus-size model Kaisa Henriikka was told her friends might be turned away from clubs in an exchange with a promoter (kaisasparkle / Instagram)

In one high-profile example of alleged discrimination, plus-sized model Kaisa Henriikka claimed in September she was told by a promoter that some clubs might be reluctant to accept more than two or three plus-sized guests for her birthday. 

According to a screenshot of the conversation, the promoter said he was “not trying to be rude,” but knew that some clubs “can be funny”.

“If it’s two to three girls in your group, that is fine, hope you understand,” he wrote. 

Today Ms Kenriika, 33, said she was “thrilled” to learn about the inquiry. 

“I’m so happy that there are more people fighting against discrimination. It’s not just the plus-size community, it’s other groups too (who are victims). Hopefully something can be done so this never happens again.” 

In another incident in June, film producer Nadine Marsh-Edwards claimed her daughter witnessed black women being charged a £20 entrance fee to the club Drama in Park Lane, while white women were charged £10.

The club launched an investigation and said it did not tolerate “any form of discrimination”.

Kimberly McIntosh, policy officer at race equality think tank the Runneymead Trust, added: “Discrimination at the club door is nothing new...It’s appalling that this issue continues to blight Saturday nights for minorities.”

Disability rights campaigner and actress Sam Renke, who has brittle bone disease Osteogenesis Imperfecta, said she has been told she was not allowed in clubs in Soho in the past because she was a “fire risk”.

She said: “It’s absolutely ridiculous. I understand they want to have these elite places...I suppose west London and Mayfair does have that ‘WAG’ image to uphold. But I think for someone like myself, who has got a disability, I’ve noticed a shift now that I’m in the public eye, I’ve noticed a difference. 

“I’ve definitely felt I wasn’t being treated the same as everyone else because of my disability. It’s all to do with money and status and I agree with what Westminster are doing.”

Councillor Iain Bott, chair of Westminster’s “Inclusion in the Evening and Night Time Economy Task Group”, said it would “consider all forms of discrimination”.

“We are in the listening stage of this process. We want to hear about people’s experiences of discrimination while using nightclubs in Westminster,” he said.

“To get a full picture we will also be talking to the industry and those that work in it.”

The inquiry is expected to produce a list of recommendations for public agencies including the council, which provides licences for pubs and nightclubs.

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