Click below to watch Nicole Cairns’ video report with two men who say they have been refused entry to Ballarat nightclubs because of their tattoos.
BALLARAT nightclubs could be breaking the law by refusing entry to people with exposed tattoos, according to the discrimination watchdog.
Two Ballarat men have come forward with claims that popular clubs including Haida Bar and The Bluestone regularly reject entry to patrons with ink.
Craig “Krog” Knight, 25, said he had never been able to set foot in The Bluestone because of his tattoos.
“Once I was waiting in the line and a bouncer came up to me and told me to not even bother trying to get inside,” he said.
“I’ve tried maybe three or four times to go there, but it’s not even worth the effort.
“I think clubs take the approach that if you have tattoos you’re a bad-arse, but that’s just not the case. My friends describe me as a teddy bear.”
Haida Bar, in Camp Street, has a visible anti-tattoo policy, with a dress code sign stating patrons must have “no clearly exposed tattoos”.
Manager Ian Cameron confirmed the policy and said it was a general rule that a number of bars in the area enforced.
The Bluestone, however, denies it has such a policy.
Marketing manager Mike Middleton said the Mair Street venue “100 per cent does not have a policy restricting entrance to people with tattoos”.
“I even have a big arm tattoo myself, so we definitely don’t refuse people at the door based on tattoos,” Mr Middleton said.
“We have a dress policy that has remained consistent since the bar has opened in 2010.”
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission told The Courier that banning nightclub patrons because of exposed tattoos could be a breach of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, unless the tattoos were offensive.
A commission spokesperson said there were a number of attributes under the Act where a person may claim unfavourable treatment on the basis of physical features, such as height, weight or size, in the provision of a service.
“In some instances, physical features could also include visible tattoos,” the spokesperson said.
“However, a venue owner does have the right to refuse entry to a person if their physical feature, such as a tattoo, is offensive in nature, for example a tattoo that is racist, or sexually explicit.”
Joshua Jewell, 22, said his extensive tattoos, which cover his arms and neck, severely limited his options of where to go at night.
“I’m allowed in at The Bridge Hotel and Karova Lounge — but that’s it,” he said.
Mr Jewell said that both Haida Bar and The Bluestone had refused him entry in the past because of his tattoos.
Gary Wilson, the owner of Irish Murphy’s and Karova Lounge, said neither of his venues had tattoo policies.
“I’d be crazy to enforce something like that,” Mr Wilson said. “If you ban tattoos, you could be banning 15 to 20 per cent of your customers.”
Tattoo artist Dave Andrews of The Inkspot Tattoo Studio said bans on tattooed patrons were a daily topic of conversation among the clients of his Humffray Street North shop.
“I’ve been a tattoo artist for 23 years, but this has only been a problem for the past three to four years,” Mr Andrews said.
In a bid to stop discrimination based on tattoos, Mr Andrews last year started a petition which has received more than 100 signatures.
“The commission can’t do anything until they receive a complaint,” he said.