Iowa City officials won't take action following alleged size discrimination at bar

BY KRISTEN EAST | MAY 02, 2012 6:30 AM

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Though University of Iowa student Jordan Ramos' story of her alleged discrimination at an Iowa City bar has been nationally recognized, local officials do not intend to take any action.

Ramos alleges she was stopped by employees at the Union Bar, 121 E. College St., on two separate occasions when she wanted to join a friend on the bar's dance platform. She plans to protest with others outside the Union Bar from 9 p.m. to midnight on Friday.

"It's been exciting, but it's also been very traumatic because I never expected it to get this much attention," she said. "Seeing everyone's responses … it's been overwhelming."

However, some city officials said the story isn't as deserving of the coverage it has received.

"There are issues that are considerably more important," City Councilor Jim Throgmorton said.

Mayor Matt Hayek said he didn't know of any city officials who were planning to review or investigate the bar. He said an issue such as this would be handled by the Human Rights Commission.

"We encourage anyone who may believe their rights may have been violated to go to the Human Rights Commissions … [and] to follow that process," he said.

City Attorney Eleanor Dilkes also said the Human Rights Commission handles discrimination complaints, but only those that are specified under the Equal Protection Clause. Size discrimination is not specified.

Several Human Rights Commission members declined to comment Tuesday night.

Ramos has announced Union owner George Wittgraf has offered her an apology for the incident.

"I'm very sorry about all this," he told The Daily Iowan. "I'm still trying to figure everything out, but the employees have been sat down, and it's never going to happen again."

The story has been picked up by ABC News and Huffington Post, among others, and Ramos said she hopes the additional attention will spark greater conversation about discrimination in general.

"[The protest] is getting people to understand that we've thought we've come so far from discrimination, but it's all very alive and well," Ramos said. "We're trying to take this issue and make it much bigger."

Ramos said the protest is no longer just about size discrimination or the Union Bar, but rather all establishments that discriminate against patrons for any reason.

"I see this protest as a symbol and message to all establishments here and nationwide that this is not right, and people should not be able to deny customers the right to have access to what they are providing based on their appearance, their gender, or their sexual orientation," she said.

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