The owner of a popular nightclub in New Jersey has filed a federal lawsuit accusing police and borough officials of unfairly targeting his business because it attracts too many LGBTQ and African-American patrons.
John P. Saddy owns Karma nightclub in Seaside Heights, a borough in Ocean County, New Jersey perhaps best known for being the setting of MTV’s reality show Jersey Shore.
In the lawsuit, Saddy accuses several Seaside Heights officials of unfairly punishing him for disobeying the borough’s “prohibition” on hip hop music, as well as not cooperating with attempts at creating a more “family friendly” community by limiting the number of POC and LGBTQ patrons he allows into his bar.
The lawsuit states:
Contrary to the Borough of Seaside Heights’ public claims that it is trying to promote a ‘family environment,’ the borough, through the individually named defendants, is actually trying to promote a ‘white’ and ‘straight’ environment.
It goes on to list several alleged incidents where Saddy feels borough officials acted in discriminatory manner. Here are just some of the accusations:
- A baseless fire marshall inspection on May 26, 2018 that resulted in no violations being found.
- A baseless police raid on May 27, 2018 during which officers “aggressively frisked” several of the bar’s patrons.
- Continued threats of being closed down and/or not having his liquor license renewed.
- Continued pressure not to host hip hop or rap music shows since they tend to “attract African-American patrons.”
- Police showing up unannounced to count the number of African-Americans present.
- Saddy being threatened by a borough administrator that if he hosted any more hip hop or LBGTQ events, he could expect “the police would be living” at his venue.
- Saddy being forced to pay off-duty police officers to monitor his nightclub “at a rate of pay significantly higher” than Seaside Heights usually pays its officers.
- Saddy being threatened with a police raid if he hosted an event sponsored by Hennessy cognac because it would “attract too many African-Americans.”
Perhaps the most disturbing allegation involves an exchange between Saddy and Administrator Christopher Vaz that purportedly happened earlier this year.
Saddy claims he met with Vaz in April to discuss the possibility of having hip hop and LBGTQ-friendly events at Karma and another one of his nightclubs in the area. When he suggested it might help boost tourism, Vaz allegedly replied that “‘blacks and f*gs’ did not conjure images of a family-oriented town.”
Jean Cipriani, a lawyer for the borough, says Saddy’s lawsuit is chocked full of “outrageous, false and inflammatory allegations.”
She also accuses Saddy of being “disingenuous and malicious” and trying to make a money grab, saying he’s “willing to make wild and unsupported smears about public servants in pursuit of that money.”
“The Borough of Seaside Heights does not discriminate on the basis of race or sexual preference or identity,” Cipriani says. “Period.”
Saddy is seeking an unspecified amount of money as compensation for lost income after the baseless crackdowns on Karma earlier this year, as well as payments for “emotional distress” and attorney’s fees.