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Downtown nightclub discontinues VIP memberships and makes staffing changes following allegations of racism on social media

Patrons say only some seeking entry were asked for membership card

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A downtown nightclub says it has "cut ties" with employees and discontinued its VIP membership program after a Facebook post featuring negative reviews from black patrons alleging they were turned away at the door made the rounds earlier this week.

On Sun. July 8, a Charleston resident who goes by the name "Lotus Cheeks" on Facebook (she is withholding her name due to fear of retaliation) wrote that she was denied entry Saturday night to Deco Charleston (28 Ann St.) The post alleged that a security guard requested a 'membership card' for some seeking entry and not others.

The post, which has since racked up 430 shares and 192 comments, aggregated seven screenshots of negative reviews posted between May 12 and July 7 that allege similar rejections from bouncers at the club.

An African-American Facebook user by the name Atiba Russell said that a bouncer, "Told me that we needed a membership to get in which is understandable but what threw me for a loop is I had some buddies that I work with that was already in there and said they didn't need a memebership [sic] to get in."

Deco opened its doors on April 20 in the former Club Pantheon/Cure Nightclub space on 28 Ann St., according to Eater. The 5,000 square foot space calls itself the "largest upscale dance club in Charleston, South Carolina."

Multiple reviews have been left on the club's Facebook page after Cheek's initial post, including some by Asian and African American users that allege similar experiences. At the same time, some reviews claim that mixed-race groups have gotten in and enjoyed the club's services with no problem.

"Always have a fun time here with my friends. I'll def add we've never had a problem besides having too many people in our group," wrote one user by the name of Jackie Tomkins. "Might I add the group I always come with is white, Asian, & black. I've never seen any racial profiling here, ever!"

About 27 hours after the initial post, Deco offered an apology on Facebook and was examining changes:

"We’ve had a great deal of internal conversations to make sure all team members are 100 percent clear on our policies for VIP access and dress codes and will be publishing all details to our website and social channels in the near future to help alleviate any frustration guests have encountered," the club wrote on its Facebook page. "For those that have experienced any type of inconvenience please accept our most humble apology."

By Tuesday evening, the club announced that it had done away with VIP memberships and "cut ties" with some employees.

"We’ve immediately discontinued any type of membership program," the club wrote. "All current VIP cards, etc., will no longer be accepted or required as a means of entry for anyone, anytime. We have cut ties with employees who are not aligned with our company’s core values of collaboration, communication, and inclusion; and will continue to seek out new employees to better serve you."

Deco owner Tyler Wicker has reached out to Cheeks on Facebook to apologize for her experience and request that they speak on the phone.

Deco has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

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