A Brisbane woman has slammed a nightclub as "racist" after she was refused entry because of her cultural face tattoos.
Moale James, 23, was in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley celebrating her partner's birthday on Saturday night when she was rejected by a bouncer at Hey Chica!, a popular Latin American club.
"One of your security guards last night refused to let me enter because of my face reva reva," she wrote in a Facebook post. "Giving you some time to respond, but I'm preparing a response to the discriminatory and racist behaviour I experienced last night. Time to answer."
James, who has Papua New Guinean heritage, said she explained to the guard that her tattoos were "cultural", but he still refused to let her in.
"We had gone to many nightclubs across the valley and not one of the security guards batted an eye until we arrived at the doors of Hey Chica," she wrote.
Speaking to the ABC, James said the guard looked at her licence, then looked at her and said, "I can't let you in because of your face".
"And I paused because I've actually been anticipating for this to happen," she said.
"Then I walked off. And I didn't have to say anything to him because all my friends did. They said to me, 'No, this is discrimination'. I've received discrimination before for my marks, but not to the extent of being refused entry. They identify who I am, who my family is, my community is. So there's a lot of pride in wearing those marks."
In a private message to James, which she shared on Facebook, the club apologised for her experience but stood by its policy.
"Thank you for sharing your experience and for your understanding that the staff at Hey Chica! were following procedure," the message said.
"While we appreciate that our rule has caused you unintended distress, we do enforce a blanket policy that prohibits head and face tattoos at Hey Chica! alongside other conditions of entry. While we understand this is a strict policy, we will continue to enforce this under the Liquor Act."
James commented, "Nope. Not good enough".
Under Queensland's liquor laws, venues face penalties if they don't take reasonable steps to refuse people wearing items associated with criminal organisations including bikie gangs.
"I'm not affiliated with gangs," James told the ABC.
"I'm not a threat to society just because I wear the marks of my ancestors on my face. It's 2022. It's not okay to just assume that this one blanket rule can cover everybody with a tattoo. It's ridiculous."
Hey Chica! has been contacted for comment.
Queensland's Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation told the broadcaster it did not regulate dress codes in licensed venues except for prohibited items associated with identified criminal organisations.
"Licensees may also refuse entry to a person for any other reason provided doing so is not in contravention of discrimination laws," a spokesman said.
"A patron has an ability to take a matter to the Queensland Human Rights Commission if they feel they have been personally affected by discrimination."
Queensland's anti-discrimination laws are under review, but do not stop pubs, bars and restaurants from denying entry to people with face and neck tattoos.
"I just want a little bit of empathy, a little bit more respect," James told the ABC.