Are 'dress codes' a cloak for racial discrimination?

A dress code controversy in Kansas City's Power & Light District flared again Thursday when an African-American family filed a complaint saying it was discriminated against.

Seven members of the family have complained to the Missouri Commission on Human Rights that a district nightclub barred them while allowing similarly attired white patrons to enter.

Also Thursday, Kansas City’s Human Relations Department issued a report of its own investigation of the district. It found that the dress code was not consistently enforced among whites and minorities.

The report, which was prompted by complaints, did not conclude that the district discriminates, but it did recommend ways to ensure that the dress code is fairly enforced.

Zed Smith, national director of operations for Cordish, insisted Thursday that the entertainment district complies with city ordinances and “does not discriminate in any form or fashion in the execution of our dress code.” He said that the district has hosted 6 million patrons in the last year and that complaints are rare.

But Smith said the company will work with the city on its recommendations to provide more training, more monitoring and more video cameras.

“We want to make sure we get this right,” he said.

City Council members said that they were concerned about the continuing allegations of unequal treatment at the entertainment district and that they will get a public update from human relations officials on Nov. 19.

Councilwoman Beth Gottstein reminded her colleagues that Kansas City plays host next year to the 10,000-delegate NAACP national convention and said the city has to get a handle on this problem.

"This is exactly what we don't want to happen," she said.