Business and city leaders respond to allegations of racism in Uptown Greenville

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Despite tremendous growth and billions of dollars in investments, there is a growing group of people that say racism is alive and well in Uptown Greenville.

Robert Staton said the only time he will go to Uptown anymore is to work. Past experiences of being turned away from clubs and bars based on his appearance and skin color has tainted his view on the party scene atmosphere in Uptown.

“I don’t like rejection,” he said. “I don’t like being told that I can’t come in a certain place because of my appearance.”

During a heated meeting on race in Greenville on Tuesday, several community members raised concerns about how businesses were treating minorities.

“I challenge ECU to do something about pulling that support because I don’t like the idea of you supporting institutions that are supporting bias,” said Jermaine McNair. “That’s the same as you supporting bias if you’re feeding it.”

Some black DJ’s said it is even hard to find a bar that will host minority groups for parties and gatherings at times.

Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas said Uptown Greenville officials and the Greenville Police already have regular meetings with business owners to discuss concerns.

Virgina Hardy, ECU’s Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, said the way businesses are handling students is an issue they’re now investigating.

“We need to provide opportunities for our young people to go downtown and have a safe environment and be able to feel welcomed and invited there,” she said during Tuesday’s meeting.

Sup Dogs owner Bret Oliverio said being fair and open to all has been something at the heart of his business since opening in Uptown eight years ago.

“We’re trying to operate a fun and safe establishment,” Oliverio said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re black of white. As long as your there to have a good time and not cause trouble.”

Staton said an overwhelming majority of businesses treat everyone fairly, but even one that still looks at minorities different is one too many.

WNCT reached out to several Uptown businesses, but only heard back from one.

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