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Grand Gateway Hotel faces another discrimination lawsuit

A Facebook post and email from the owner of the Grand Gateway Hotel calls for a ban on Native American guests. The manager said the hotel would not ban anyone, but the community is still protesting.
Josh Haiar
A March, 2022 Facebook post and email from the owner of the Grand Gateway Hotel calls for a ban on Native American guests. She has since faced community protests and discrimination lawsuits.

The Grand Gateway Hotel in Rapid City, already embroiled in legal battles, now faces yet another discrimination lawsuit. It’s the latest development since the business and its policies were vaulted into national attention last summer.

The hotel has been entrenched in legal battles since ownership posted to social media in March of 2022 their intentions to "ban any Native from property," leading to months of protests and multiple lawsuits. Those properties include the Grand Gateway and Cheers Lounge in Rapid City.

The latest suit, from a Wisconsin family, alleges they were denied service at the hotel based on the race of a Native family member.

Court documents state Jessica White, who is Caucasian, was not bothered as she attempted to check into the hotel on vacation this August. Her husband Ryan, who is Native, unloaded their car and entered the lobby second.

The lawsuit alleges the employee abruptly denied the couple service or honor the booking after Ryan entered.

After contacting Travelocity, the family confirmed they had three rooms reserved at the hotel. Despite Travelocity confirming the booking and speaking to hotel staff, the employee still refused the family the rooms. At this point, the employee of the hotel reportedly told the Travelocity representative, who spoke with an accent, to “speak English,” which the lawsuit alleges reinforced the racial nature of the incident.

Further, the family said the employee told Ryan to leave the lobby, called for security and told security to bring backup before then telling Jessica he would be calling dispatch. Feeling threatened for the safety of himself and his children, Ryan White then left the hotel.

The lawsuit alleges the White family was not refused service on plausible basis, and instead were the victims of unlawful discrimination which fits into a larger pattern for the business.

The suit asks for the courts to declare the hotels conduct unlawful and for the family to be reimbursed attorney fees and awarded damages at trial.

Representatives from the hotel did not return request for comment.

Owner Connie Uhre has already been convicted of two counts of simple assault for an incident in May which saw her spray cleaner at protesters.

Read the full lawsuit here.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture
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