Rrazz Room management alleges racism in contract negotiations

Beth Laberge/Special to the S.F. ExaminerEnd: The Rrazz Room at Hotel Nikko will be shutting down this year

When singer Kim Nalley utters her final notes on New Year’s Eve, it will mark not only the end of 2012, but the end of the Rrazz Room — at least at the Hotel Nikko. The hotel announced Monday that the venue’s contract would end Dec. 31.

“We wish the Rrazz Room all the best in the future,” general manager Anna Marie Presutti said.

Alas, the feelings are not mutual.

In a complaint filed in Superior Court last month, Rrazz Entertainment West Inc. alleged that Presutti applied pressure on partners Robert Kotonly and Rory Paull to alter their entertainment booking practices based on the race of the entertainers.

The complaint alleged that Presutti “requested that Rrazz Entertainment change its musical programming to reduce the number of Rhythm and Blues acts because the defendants did not want the Rrazz Room to attract to the Hotel Nikko a certain ‘demographic’ that Rhythm and Blues acts were drawing.”

Nalley, the venue’s final act, is black, as were many of the venue’s performers, including Ruben Studdard, Ashford and Simpson, and Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes.

The suit further alleged that a Sunday brunch radio show broadcast from the Nikko was switched from R&B station KBLX to the soft-rock format KSOF based on demographics of race, and that the defendants altered contract documents “in bad faith.”

It’s not the first time Kotonly and Paull have had a less than happy parting with hotel manager landlords. In 2007, after three years of booking the venue, lease negotiations broke down between Rrazz and Personality Hotels over the future of the Plush Room at the York Hotel (now the Vertigo). Personality shuttered the room and Kotonly and Paull opened at the Nikko in the spring of 2008.

At that time, Presutti and the Nikko were in the process of defending against a race- and age-based wrongful termination suit by a former midlevel manager. The case did not go to trial and Presutti claims “the hotel was very pleased with the way that was resolved.”

“The lawsuit is full of outrageous allegations, which I adamantly deny,” Presutti said. “It is especially hurtful and upsetting to me, given the diverse workforce we have here at the Nikko, to be accused of racism by the Rrazz management team. This is simply the case of a contract coming to an end, and it’s an attempt for Rrazz to use slander as a bullying tactic to get their way.”

Kotonly and Paull, who declined to be interviewed on the advice of legal counsel, are focused on opening a new venue at 1000 Van Ness Ave. in January.

Ashford and SimpsonBay Area NewsLocalRrazz Room

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Anti-eviction demonstrators rally outside San Francisco Superior Court. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Report: Unpaid rent due to COVID-19 could be up to $32.7M per month

A new city report that attempts to quantify how much rent has… Continue reading

Music venues around The City have largely been unable to reopen due to ongoing pandemic health orders. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF to cut $2.5M in fees to help 300 nightlife venues

San Francisco will cut $2.5 million in fees for hundreds of entertainment… Continue reading

Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett departs the U.S. Capitol on October 21, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump nominated Barrett to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after Ginsburg’s death. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)
GOP senators confirm Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court in partisan vote

By Jennifer Haberkorn Los Angeles Times The Senate on Monday confirmed Judge… Continue reading

Curator Tim Burgard looks over a section of the galleries comprising “The de Young Open,” a huge, varied collection of work by Bay Area artists. (Photo courtesy Gary Sexton/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco)
Bay Area artists jam-pack vivid ‘de Young Open’

Huge exhibition — with works for sale — showcases diversity, supports community

SF Board of Education vice president Gabriela Lopez and commissioner Alison Collins listen at a news conference condemning recent racist and social media attacks targeted at them and the two student representatives on Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Online attacks on school board members denounced by city officials

City officials on Monday condemned the targeting of school board members, both… Continue reading

Most Read