JD Wetherspoon admits 'racially stereotyping' against Travellers for second time in as many weeks

The pub chain agreed to pay compensation after staff at its pub The Tivoli barred three people from entering on the grounds of their ethnicity

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One of the UK’s largest pub chains has admitted racially discriminating against Travellers for the second time in as many weeks, paying out more than £10,000 to three people who were refused entry to a bar in Cambridge.

JD Wetherspoon admitted liability and agreed to pay each person £3,500 in compensation after staff at its pub The Tivoli barred them from entering on the grounds of their ethnicity in February. The confrontation was filmed on a mobile phone by one of the group.

Less than a fortnight ago the chain was ordered to pay £24,000 damages after being found guilty of racially discriminating against a group of Gypsies and Travellers who were prevented from entering The Coronet pub in north London in November 2011.

“If it happens once it could be a mistake. If it happens more than once, then it’s something else and we appear to be uncovering evidence of a culture of discrimination,” said a spokesperson from the Traveller Movement.

“Unfortunately for Gypsies and Travellers, it’s a culture that spreads wider than Wetherspoons, and individuals from those ethnic groups face casual racism and discrimination on a daily basis regardless of how they personally conduct themselves. That’s why we fight these cases.”

Martin Howe, a partner at Howe and Co Solicitors who represented Travellers in both cases, said after JD Wetherspoon agreed to pay damages: “Pubs, clubs, restaurants, shops and all those who provide services to the public need to learn that it is no longer acceptable to make stereotypical assumptions about Irish Travellers and Romany Gypsies.

“Racial stereotyping, that is only too prevalent, is repugnant and unlawful. It seems Wetherspoons has a problem that they must get to grips with very urgently. Those who continue to treat Travellers less favourably than they would treat others will face the legal consequences of paying out large sums in compensation, paying costs and suffering serious damage to their reputations. The last bastion of ‘acceptable racism’ is dead”.

The refusal to allow three Travellers into The Trivoli, where they had hoped to celebrate birthdays and the birth of a child, took place on 27 February. They were told the ban had been introduced because the pub was expecting trouble that evening. “Apparently there had been a funeral earlier in the day of a member of the Gypsy community in the Cambridge area,” said Mr Howe.

JD Wetherspoon said in the wake of two discrimination claims that it is carrying out a review of its training and policies to make sure staff comply with the legal requirements in the future.

Tim Martin, the founder and chairman of JD Wetherspoon, said that the two cases constituted the only occasions on which the company had been accused of discrimination by Travellers since the pub chain was founded in 1979.

“We apologise to the three claimants for the embarrassment and distress caused to them and have offered to pay damages to each of them as well as legal costs. There was no intention by the company to discriminate against these individuals,” he added.

“Our pubs serve more than two million customers each week and unfortunately errors by our staff do occur on occasion, notwithstanding our commitment to equal treatment of all customers and staff and the training we provide in this area. We will be redoubling our efforts to ensure that we, as a company, and our staff, learn from these mistakes.”

JD Wetherspoon admitted liability for refusing entry to three people at The Tivoli just a few days after Judge John Hand QC, sitting at the Central London County Court, ruled that barring eight people from entering The Coronet on Holloway Road had been illegal and amounted to racial stereotyping. Each of the eight was awarded £3,000 damages.

He said The Coronet’s manager David Leach, who has since died, had been “irrational” and that his thinking was “suffused with the stereotypical assumption that Irish Travellers and English Gypsies cause disorder wherever they go”.

The judge concluded of the manager’s stereotypical assumptions: “It can be reduced to this crude proposition: whenever Irish Travellers and English Gypsies go to public houses, violent disorder is inevitable because that is how they behave.”