The Justice Department announced today that the owners and operators of the Grand Gateway Hotel and the Cheers Sports Lounge and Casino, a hotel and sports bar located in Rapid City, South Dakota, have entered into a consent decree resolving the Department’s lawsuit alleging that the defendants discriminated against Native American customers in violation of Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Under the consent decree, which still must be approved by the U.
District Court for the District of South Dakota, Connie Uhre will be barred from serving as an officer or director of the company or from exercising any management duties or being involved in any operations on behalf of the Grand Gateway Hotel for four years.
The defendants will also issue a public apology and send it specifically to tribal organizations in South Dakota and throughout the Great Plains region.
“As alleged in the complaint, the defendants both prevented Native Americans from booking rooms at the hotel and made public statements discouraging Native Americans from setting foot on the business’s property,” said Attorney General Merrick B.
“Statements like the one made by a defendant in this case – that ‘[w]e will no long[er] allow any Native American on property,’ – are reminiscent of a long history of prejudice and exclusion Native American communities have faced.
The Justice Department will continue to work alongside Native American communities to fulfill the promise of equal protection under the law.
“The defendants’ conduct in this case was egregious, motivated by naked animus, and amounted to an outright ban on Native American customers seeking access to a public establishment,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
“This kind of hateful conduct invokes a long and painful history of negative stereotypes against and exclusion of the Native American community.
We applaud the Tribal elders, local officials, and advocates who took a stand against this shameful conduct.
Our settlement should send a message to public establishments across the country that their doors must be open to all communities regardless of race.
As we commemorate Native American Heritage Month, the Justice Department underscores its commitment to stand with Native Americans whenever they face unlawful discrimination.
“This consent decree affirms what should have never been at issue in the first place — that Native Americans have the fundamental right to receive equal services at places of public accommodation,” said U.
Attorney Alison J.
Ramsdell for the District of South Dakota.
“Although this agreement does not change the reprehensible behavior of Ms.
Uhre or the harm caused by racial discrimination, the consent decree mandates Uhre’s removal from corporate control, the immediate cessation of discriminatory policies and the implementation of a series of preventative measures that must be taken at the expense of the corporation.
The ongoing involvement of the Justice Department stands as a forceful reminder to all business owners in South Dakota that refusing services on the basis of race is against the law and will not be tolerated.
The Department’s lawsuit, filed in October 2022, alleged that, since at least March 20, 2022, the Retsel Corporation and two of its directors, Connie Uhre and Nicholas Uhre, discriminated against Native American customers through policies and practices that denied Native Americans the full and equal enjoyment of access to the services, accommodations, and privileges at the Grand Gateway Hotel and the Cheers Sports Lounge and Casino.
Specifically, the complaint alleged that on or around March 20, 2022, Connie Uhre told other Rapid City hotel owners and managers that she did “not want to allow Natives on property….
The problem is we do not know the nice ones from the bad natives…so we just have to say no to them!” Uhre then announced on Facebook that “[w]e will no long[sic] allow any Native American” in the Grand Gateway or in the Cheers Sports Lounge and Casino.
The complaint further alleged that on at least two occasions, on March 21 and March 22, 2022, respectively, the defendants turned away Native Americans who sought to book rooms in the Grand Gateway.
The apology, issued as part of the consent decree, will include the following statement:
“We extend our sincere apology to all for the statements made by Connie Uhre on March 19-20, 2022, regarding Native Americans.
Uhre’s comments were not consistent with the values or polices of our company or of our businesses, the Grand Gateway Hotel and Cheers Sports Lounge.
We deeply regret the pain or harm Ms.
Uhre’s statements have caused within our Native American community.
We want to make clear that we welcome all Native Americans to the Grand Gateway Hotel and Cheers Sports Lounge.
The consent decree also requires that the defendants retain a compliance officer to oversee compliance with its terms, implement and publish an anti-discrimination policy, institute a complaint process, undergo training, and develop an affirmative marketing plan.
These provisions will be in effect for the next three years.
Title II prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin in places of public accommodation, such as hotels and places of entertainment.
Under Title II, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division can obtain injunctive relief that changes policies and practices to remedy the discriminatory conduct.
Title II does not authorize the division to obtain monetary damages for customers who are victims of discrimination.
More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.
Individuals may report discrimination in places of public accommodation that violates Title II by calling the Justice Department at 1-833-591-0291, or submitting a report online.
View the consent decree here.