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1 of 12 Human Rights Complaints Upheld Against Fourth Street Live Since 2004


In just over a decade, state and local human rights commissions investigated a dozen allegations of racial discrimination at the Fourth Street Live in downtown Louisville.

The Louisville Metro Human Relations Commission has closed eight investigations stemming from formal complaints of racial discrimination at the entertainment district since 2004.

The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights has closed three such investigations, according to records provided by both agencies.

The state commission has a single open complaint of racial discrimination that was filed earlier this year.

Of the 11 closed complaints, seven were found to have no probable or reasonable cause to substantiate a discrimination claim. Two complaints were withdrawn by the complainant, and one complaint was settled between the involved parties.

One racial discrimination complaint was upheld, the records show.

Fourth Street Live has had accusations of racial discrimination levied against it since its opening in 2004.

A Cordish Co. executive said discrimination, in any form, is not tolerated "on the part of businesses at Fourth Street Live.

"And the findings of the Human Relations Commission validate that," said Zed Smith, the companies chief operating officer.

The lone upheld complaint came in June 2005 against Red Cheetah—a now-defunct bar at Fourth Street Live. In that case, the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights ruled the bar violated the Kentucky Civil Rights Act when the bar's management denied a black man entrance due to alleged dress code violations.

But a police officer near the entrance told investigators that white people wearing similar clothes were being allowed entry into the bar, according to a 2008 press release detailing the findings of the state's investigation.

Red Cheetah went out of business before an official hearing on the matter was held and the state commission determined the "only affirmative relief appropriate in this instance is an order prohibiting the respondent from resuming any business operations with the Commonwealth of Kentucky."

Fourth Street Live, on Muhammad Ali Boulevard and Liberty Street, is owned by the Cordish Company, a privately held Baltimore-based enterprise that also operates similar entertainment districts in St. Louis and Philadelphia. Cordish has owned some, but not all, of the establishments.

Finding probable cause to pursue a complaint of discrimination can sometimes be arduous, said Carolyn Miller-Cooper, director of the Louisville Metro Human Relations Commission.

Once a complaint is received, an investigator sifts through available documents and conduct interviews, then make a ruling based on all the evidence collected, she said.

She said sometimes evidence is scarce and witnesses may choose to avoid involvement because they'd just rather not get involved, or fear of retribution.

A finding of no probably cause “simply means that the evidence did not provide all the necessary elements” of the case, Miller-Cooper said.

"But, realize that there could be people who didn't file complaints," she said.

Complaints regarding racial discrimination that are found to have probable cause are sent to the Jefferson County Attorney's office for further review before a hearing is conducted, she added.


Jacob Ryan joined LPM in 2014. Ryan is originally from Eddyville, Kentucky. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.