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Famed Guitarist Claims Racism Led To SF Hotel Check-In Flap

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Leo Nocentelli (Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

Leo Nocentelli (Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – A world-renowned guitarist nominated for induction into the Rock-And-Roll Hall Of Fame was allegedly told he couldn’t put a credit card deposit on a San Francisco hotel room because he is black.

Guitarist Leo Nocentelli, a founding member of The Meters, was attempting to check in a the Travelodge on Market and Valencia when he was allegedly hassled by the hotel manager who demanded a $100 cash deposit from him and his African-American band mates, while a white band member was allowed to put his deposit on a credit card.

“I would have to call it racism, because that’s what I came up with,” Nocentelli said.

Nocentelli said the Travelodge manager demanded a hundred dollar cash deposit from him and his African American band-mates, but the white band member was allowed to use a credit card. Concert promoter Jason Perkins had already booked the rooms with his own credit card. The band called him in to mediate.

“The manager said, ‘we don’t take credit cards from those people,” recalled Perkins, who asked what the manager meant. “And he said, ‘Black people. We don’t take credit cards from Black people.’”

“And at that point it was like someone hit me. I was so stunned that in my home town, in San Francisco, 2012, that there words like this coming out of someone’s mouth,” recalled Perkins.

Perkins filed a formal complaint with the San Francisco Human Rights Commission on Friday. Executive Director Theresa Sparks said the Commission will look into the allegations.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer or if he just picked up a guitar in the city. All people have rights in the city, and the right is to live without discrimination,” said Theresa Sparks of the Human Rights Commission.

Travelodge is a franchise, and the local owner has not responded to our repeated requests for comment.

In an email the Wyndham Hotel group, which owns Travelodge, told CBS5:

“We are acknowledging the allegation made by the guest. We are currently looking into the matter with the hotel and we’ll take appropriate action.”

The band switched hotels. Nocentelli, who grew up in the segregated south, said he didn’t hear the manager make the remark about quote “those people,” but he said he recognizes discrimination.

“I know what that is, and I can smell it. I’m just used to it and I know what that is. But it made me think: in 2012, it’s got to stop,” Nocentelli said.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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