Hamburg addresses racism by bouncers on the Reeperbahn

Kristen Allen
Kristen Allen - [email protected]
Hamburg addresses racism by bouncers on the Reeperbahn
Photo: DPA

Hamburg politicians are spearheading a discussion about racist discrimination by club bouncers in the city’s famous red-light Reeperbahn district after recent complaints from an Ethiopian patron.


After a first round of talks that included club owners, politicians and city officials, Justice Minister Till Steffen told Hamburger Abendblatt this week that the city needs to “hone the criteria the doormen use to turn guests away.”

This August, Ethiopian human rights lawyer Awol Allo, in Hamburg attending a summer programme at the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, filed complaints with the Hamburg Department of Justice and the federal anti-discrimination office after being turned away from clubs in the Reeperbahn area five times.

"I was the only black person in a large group, and the only person prevented from entering the clubs, and that’s the most offending part," Allo told The Local on Friday from his home in Ethiopia. "For something like this to happen in Germany, presumably a very liberal place, in 2008, is outrageous."

Allo said he spoke to several Hamburg residents with immigration backgrounds who said they had had similar experiences. Daily Hamburger Abendblatt decided to substantiate his claims, sending two men – one from the Ivory Coast, and one of Iranian descent – to try their luck at Reeperbahn clubs. They were rejected from eight of nine clubs, the paper reported.

"I was actually more concerned about the police than the club owners," Allo told The Local, adding that their reaction ultimately spurred him to make official complaints. "They told me the club owners were allowed to turn me away, which is against Germany’s obligation to protect against discrimination."

Club owners at the round table said they do not discriminate, though they did admit mistakes are sometimes made.

"Today we can tell the politicians what our take on the situation is," Mahmood Alkassaby, owner of the "Location 1 2 3” club, told the paper. "That there is not discrimination. We ban only dark-skinned customers who cause problems."

Doorman Viktor Hacker said: "We have to be very strict, but we aren’t racists."

Club owners and bouncers told the paper that the Reeperbahn area has been suffering from increasingly aggressive patrons, causing tension for club owners who have been hiring more security.

"Sometimes we size up a customer incorrectly and make a poor decision," Thomas Gehle from "Klub Astoria" said.

Justice Minister Till Steffen, who wrote Allo a personal letter promising to pursue the issue, told the paper he plans to have more such discussions, adding that club owners had convinced politicians they were not practicing overt discrimination.

Allo, who left Germany on August 31 to return to Ethiopia, awaits news on whether he can get legal aid to press charges in the German court system.


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