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Crime & Courts

Rapid City hotel sued for discrimination

Hundreds of people gathered at the Memorial Park Bandshell in Rapid City for the Unity March Against Racism to show solidarity and to stand against the comments made by the Hotel Grand Gateway owner that said she would ban Native Americans from her establishment. Video by SDPB's Richard Two Bulls.

An Indigenous rights group has filed a federal lawsuit against owners of a Rapid City hotel and lounge for discrimination.

The civil suit was filed on Wednesday, March 23, by NDN Collective of Rapid City and two named individuals who were turned away when they tried to check into the hotel.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a Saturday night shooting at the hotel and racist public statements made afterward by the hotel’s owner. This report for SDPB relies on contents of the civil complaint.

The Grand Gateway Hotel and Cheers Lounge has been the subject of national attention since March 20, when its owner, Connie Uhre, declared on Facebook that the business would no longer allow access to Native people.

Connie Uhre made her inflammatory statements in the days following a March 19 shooting at the hotel. Quincy Bear Robe, 19, was arrested and charged with assaulting Myron Pourier Jr., who was hospitalized with serious injuries. Both men involved are Native.

Two days after Connie Uhre announced the hotel’s new policy on access, two Native women went to the Grand Gateway Hotel and asked to rent a room, according to the civil complaint.

An employee refused, saying the hotel had a policy of not renting rooms to people with “local” identification. The employee also refused to rent a room to the other woman whose identification was not local.

Connie Uhre’s son Nicholas manages the operation. Nicholas Uhre publicly disavowed his mother’s statements, but a few days later refused service to a group of Native people, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court.

On March 22, representatives of NDN Collective attempted to rent five rooms at the Grand Gateway and were turned away, first by a desk clerk and then by the manager, believed by the group to be Nicholas Uhre. The complaint describes the manager as forceful and threatening.

NDN Collective is represented by Sioux Falls lawyers Brendan Johnson and Timothy Billion, who are asking the court to certify the matter as a class action.