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France: Major Paris nightclubs charge Arabs and Black people higher prices

French NGO SOS Racisme reveals that entry can cost up to 10 times less for white customers in two renowned clubs
L’aQuarium and L’Arc Paris had already been caught by SOS Racisme during a testing operation in 2023, and two complaints had been filed (Sylvain Thomas/AFP file)

Two prominent Parisian nightclubs charge different prices depending on the skin colour of the customers, according to a new discrimination test revealed by the French newspaper Mediapart.

Last Friday, Mediapart journalists attended a testing operation organised by the NGO SOS Racisme in two renowned nightclubs in the upper-class 16th arrondissement of the French capital: L’aQuarium, near the Trocadero, and L’Arc Paris, close to the Champs-Elysees.

The result: these nightclubs charge prices “according to whether you like the look of the customer”, and “much higher for racialized people”, Mediapart reported.

For this testing, the NGO asked three similar groups – each of two men and one woman, of the same age group and dressed in a way that respected the policy of the clubs – to ask to enter without a reservation.

A first test group was composed of people perceived as having North African origins, a second test group was made up of people perceived as having sub-Saharan origins, while a third, the control group, included only white people.

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The results show that the two establishments never directly refuse entry, but it's conditional on the purchase of a bottle or a table at a price much higher than the entry price.

'Almost no conviction for racial discrimination'

Twice, according to Mediapart, the sub-Saharan group had to pay €180 to enter L’aQuarium, compared to €25 for white people.

The group of people with perceived North African origins had to pay €800 to enter L’Arc Paris, compared with €50 for white men and €30 for white women. The group of Black people had to pay €500 to enter.

“This simply shows that there is a bias, there is a difference in treatment between, on the one hand, Black people and Arabs, or in any case people who will be considered as such, and on the other hand, white people. And this shows that prejudices, whether conscious or unconscious, continue to be operative,” Dominique Sopo, president of SOS Racisme, told Mediapart.

The NGO said it would file a complaint.

Translation: “[Discrimination] Mediapart followed SOS Racisme during a night of testing. On several occasions, the aQuarium and L’Arc Paris, two renowned clubs, have conditioned the entry of black or North African people at costs up to ten times higher.”

The city of Paris, through its deputy for nightlife, said it was scandalised and announced it would bring a civil case if a new complaint was filed.

The two nightclubs had already been caught by SOS Racisme during a testing operation in 2023, and two complaints had been filed.

However, the prosecution closed the investigation into L'Arc Paris, stating that the evidence was "not sufficient" despite testimonies and hidden camera videos.

Although the 2017 French law relating to equality and citizenship enshrines the principle according to which the results of testing operations can be used before civil courts, according to the president of SOS Racisme, in matters of criminal justice "there is almost no conviction for racial discrimination”.

Contacted by Mediapart, the managers of the two nightclubs denied any discrimination, but admitted they filter customers according to their supposed financial means.

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