A Kauai hotel is being accused of discrimination for allegedly trying to cancel a pageant for drag queens.
Event organizer Parris Coehlo – who goes by the stage name "Tori Richards" – says she had a contract with Koloa Landing Resort in Poipu that clearly stated the show was a drag pageant.
But 11 days before the show, she says the hotel called her and told her the event could not be held there.
"The owners disagreed with the type of show we are having and they said they will be more than happy to move our location to another venue. It was really a blow," said Coehlo.
Coehlo considered switching venues, but chose to fight the hotel's decision instead.
"We are not going to stand up for discrimination here in Hawaii. I knew what the right thing was to do, that I needed to continue and stand up for what is right," she said.
She hired an attorney and a letter was sent to Marriott International, which oversees Koloa Landing Resort.
"Essentially, we gave them a deadline. We said if we don't find out if the show is back on, we were going in and seeking a restraining order from the court," said Dan Hempey, Coehlo's attorney.
Coehlo says the hotel decided to let the event happen on Saturday, Oct. 7 as planned. Still, the dispute was tough to shake.
"I was at a property and a location that didn't want us there. The owners didn't want us there so it made it extremely hard to put on a happy face," said Coehlo.
Koloa Landing says it was all just a misunderstanding over some marketing materials.
"Our staff ensured that all of the attendees felt our sincere welcome, respect, and aloha spirit. While there was initial confusion that arose about the event's promotional flyers, we quickly resolved that matter and did our very best to serve all our guests," the hotel's management said in a statement.
The hotel says it delivered all terms of the contract and even added special touches, such as having restrooms accessible to all genders.
"That was, of course, after my client incurred legal bills and horrible stress. You shouldn't have to hire lawyers to get equal justice," Hempey said.
Coehlo is planning to file a lawsuit against Koloa Landing.
She says the uncertainty of the pageant's status impacted ticket sales. On the night of the event, 300 people attended.