A body representing Irish Travellers has claimed a legal victory after a Wetherspoon pub in north London refused entry to delegates at its annual conference.
The incident happened at The Coronet on Holloway Road in November 2011 and involved the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain – now known as The Traveller Movement.
The Movement’s lawyers complained to the Central London County Court that a group of 15 people were denied entry for racist reasons.
These included travellers, a police inspector, a barrister and a priest.
Pub owners JD Wetherspoon denied allegations of discrimination.
But Judge Hand QC ruled at the county court that there had been direct discrimination and awarded damages to several individuals.
A Wetherspoon spokesman confirmed eight claimants against the pub chain were successful.
The chain has to pay £3,000 damages to each Traveller and associates, a total of £24,000.
Tim Martin, chairman of Wetherspoon, said:
Wetherspoon apologises to the eight individuals who were denied entry and for any upset and distress this caused to them.
It is the first time that a claim of this nature has been brought against the company in the 35 years of its existence.
In the light of the judgment, though we have always been fully committed to operating our premises in a non-discriminatory way, we will undertake a full review of our relevant policies, procedures and training.
Martin Howe, a solicitor with Howe & Co who acted for the travellers, said:
This judgment will shake to the core all those who engage in racist conduct towards Irish Travellers and Romani Gypsies.
The last bastion of ‘acceptable racism’ has come crashing down. Shops, restaurants, supermarkets, hotels, clubs and pubs will now realise that treating Gypsies and Travellers as second-class citizens is an affront to their dignity that is no longer tolerated.
Discriminators will pay in damages, in costs and in loss of reputation.
This is a watershed day when Gypsies and Travellers no longer have to move on but can hold their heads high in the knowledge that there is equal treatment for all.
The Coronet was opened by Wetherspoons in 1996, and was originally the Savoy cinema.