My friend Jason Perkins, who owns several nightclubs in the San Francisco Bay Area and has an impeccable reputation, says that he and legendary guitarist Leo Nocentelli of The Meters were treated to some ol' fashioned hardcore racism last night courtesy of the Travelodge on Market Street near SF's Mission District. Jason writes:
"I bought 4 rooms for the band and prepaid for them on debit card. After sound check, Leo and the band went to the hotel and tried to check in. The manager refused to accept 3 of 4 members credit cards for incidentals (4th member is Rich Vogel/white dude). Leo called me and (my family and I) drove to the hotel at 7:30 pm. I asked what the hell and manager pointed at 3 members and said he wouldn't accept credit cards and "those people" need to pay cash deposit. When I asked what did he mean by "those people" - he pointed at Leo and said "black people."
I felt like I was hit in the face. It was stunning. I called the police and when they arrived, the police went through it with him and then he caught himself and said that they cannot check in any longer as he didn't feel "safe." He then refused to talk. Leo and Bill Dickens then had to console ME as I was beyond upset and they explained that as older fellows who grew up in the South, they understood this happens....
The manager refused to give his name until Police instructed him to give a contact reference and that is when I received a card for "Ginger" (Latu) who now supposedly does not work there!
I have called the hotel five times. No one will respond."
I called Travelodge myself and was told by the person answering the phone that a man named Matthew is the manager, and that he is in a meeting. He said he did not know Matthew's last name. I left a message for Matthew and also with the media relations department of Wyndham Hotel Group, franchisors of Travelodge.
There is an active thread discussing this on the Facebook page for The New Parish where Nocentelli is performing this weekend.
UPDATE at 12:39pm: Rob Myers from Wyndham's media relations department just called me back. He said he is aware of the story and that "all of our hotels are franchised, meaning they are independently owned and operated, so certainly this is not our policy, these allegations that exist here, but it wouldn't be appropriate for me to comment on it. It would be more appropriate for the hotel owners to comment on it."
Myers said he will ask the hotel to respond to my request for comment. He also asked for the names of those involved so that he can reach out to them. I sent him a link to this post and forwarded his contact info to Jason Perkins.
UPDATE at 1:28pm: Just posted on the Travelodge USA Facebook page:
Thank you to everyone who has brought this to our attention. We are deeply troubled to hear of this allegation. This is not in line with the quality of service that we expect guests to receive when staying at one of our franchised hotels. Please know that we are looking into the matter.
UPDATE at 1:45pm: Someone posting at The Examiner apparently reached the Travelodge's "Mr. Matthew":
Travelodge Central manager who identified himself only as Matthew W., claims hotel policy is to deny access to those whose credit cards reflect insufficient funds.
When asked if Mr. Nocentelli’s credit card had been run through for a credit check, Mr. W. responded, “there are cameras in the hotel.” Mr. W. then stated he was being harassed and hung up the phone.
"The Meters' Leo Nocentelli denied lodging for being black"
UPDATE at 4:35pm: The New Orleans Times-Picauyne interviewed Leo Nocentelli who went into greater detail about what happened before Jason Perkins arrived at the hotel. According to Nocentlli, the hotel clerk demanded $100 cash for incidentals from Leo and the other band members who hadn't yet checked in, and an argument ensued. "Meters guitarist Leo Nocentelli's confrontation at San Francisco motel making waves"
UPDATE Sunday 10/21: From the East Bay Express:
Perkins told us he argued with the manager through a hole in a plastic window, pressing him as to why he would not even let the band into the lobby. The manager told Perkins the hotel "didn't take credit cards from those people," finally admitting that by "those people" he meant "black people."
When Perkins called the police to the scene, they said this was not the first time they'd had similar complaints about that Travelodge. The police tried to negotiate a full refund for Perkins, which the hotel denied him.
"An SF Travelodge Allegedly Denies Guitarist Leo Nocentelli Lodging, New Parish Management Calls It Racism"