Bournemouth’s Cameo nightclub caught in racism row

Cameo nightclub in Bournemouth has been accused of racism

Cameo nightclub in Bournemouth, part of a wider chain of clubs sharing the same name, has come under fire after a group of black males refused entry on Saturday 5th December have accused the club of enforcing a racist door policy.

The group of fifteen friends from London, whose names were on the guestlist and had booked and paid £750 for a VIP area in the club a month in advance, were left shocked and angry when they arrived at the door after a 93 mile drive and were told they could not come in.

The friends, who had been eagerly anticipating the night – a stag night and reunion – were told by Cameo’s doormen that “the group was too large and that they do not allow double digit groups due to fear of trouble.” This explanation for refused entry did not wash with the group of men for several reasons, not least the fact that on the club’s website they advertise booths which hold up to twenty-five people.

Inside Cameo club, large booth areas

Marcus Leon, 33, who booked the table for him and his friends, said: "We were assured by the telesales man when we booked the tickets that Cameo catered for stag events and the group would be welcomed and we would enjoy the night.”

Adding insult to injury, the group of black friends claim that directly after being refused entrance, allegedly because of the size of their group, they then witnessed a group of ten white males be admitted into the club.

Mr Leon recalls, "While we were trying to get an explanation, a group of around 12 Caucasian boys arrived […] We all said if you let this group of guys in, you have to let us in. […] One of the bouncers told them to go take a walk around the block and they'd be allowed in in 10 minutes. They came back and were allowed in.”

Part of the interaction between the group of friends and the doormen was caught on camera by the men, with the friends demanding answers for their denied entrance whilst white males are walking into the club.

One of the friends, Jason Jean-Charles, has described last Saturday’s events as “very painful and traumatising.” "After doing the 93 mile drive, full of excitement and plans to have a great evening, only to be refused entry was extremely disappointing,” said Mr Jean-Charles.

Mr Leon and his friends, who all had ID, were dressed formally according to the dress code and were not behaving in a drunk or rowdy manner, can find no other reason for their rejection other than racism.

Leonard Lionel, one of the friends turned away from Cameo

Mr Leon explained the difficulty of coming to terms with what happened that night:

"It is very painful and hurtful. I've been going to clubs since I was 18 and I've experienced being turned away from clubs before but I've never been able to attribute it to my race. […] I have never had concrete evidence or been told I'm not coming in because of my race but what happened on Saturday it left me with no doubt in my mind that it was the main reason.” He added, “It wasn't like a section of the group didn't have identification, we were dressed appropriately and everything they asked us to do we did.”

Cameo, which has a 2,800 capacity and is a popular spot for AFC Bournemouth players, has refused to comment directly on why the men were refused entry. A spokesman for the club has denied the allegations of racism and apologised for any disappointment caused. A written statement on the club’s Facebook page reads:

'We operate a professional and well run venue and we reserve the right to refuse entry for various reasons, but race is never one of them. […] We have a diverse customer base and staffing at the club. […] Based on our vast experience and judgement we did not allow in a total of 150 people on Saturday night.'

The club spokesperson said Cameo has now refunded the group. The men say they are yet to be refunded.

After the allegations of racist door policies brought against London’s DSTRKT two months ago and Leicester’s Ghost Nightclub in May, a picture is emerging of a nationwide problem of prejudice within the clubbing scene which needs to be urgently addressed.