Bahama Breeze in Orange Village, Ohio is under fire in a new lawsuit alleging racial discrimination. According to the suit, a group of African-American customers was discriminated against when “two white managers filed a false police report and acted with hostility toward” them. The suit itself was filed in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas and names Bahama Breeze Holdings, Inc. and two white managers, Frances Skupnik and Devin Jenkins as defendants. But what happened, exactly?
According to the lawsuit, the incident occurred on June 19 when Danielle Nelson, an author, visited Bahama Breeze in Orange Village with some friends to celebrate a “book deal and pending move.” Nelson allegedly “arranged to reserve an enclosed patio for her guests,” though as soon as she and her friends arrived, things took a nasty turn.
According to the suit, Nelson and her friends were treated poorly the moment they took their seats. Once seated, one of the managers approached the group and allegedly told Nelson, “You and your people cannot leave out of this room for anything.” Thinks only got worse from there. At one point, one of Nelson’s guests had to leave for work, though when she requested her check, staff members allegedly refused to give it to her. The restaurant eventually relented, but not without making a scene. Once the guest paid and left, “one of the Bahama Breeze managers called the police and filed a false report,” according to the suit.
In the false police report, the managers claimed the “guests reportedly complained that their bills were taking too long to be delivered and they were threatening to walk out without paying.” However, the officer who arrived at the scene said the guests “paid their bills” and even had their receipts as proof. As a result, the police asked if Nelson and her guests wanted to file a complaint against the managers.
When commenting on the events detailed in the lawsuit, Subodh Chandra, the attorney for the plaintiff’s, said:
“Dining while black is not a crime, but Bahama Breeze treated these educated, professional African-Americans like common criminals—calling the police and humiliating Danielle Nelson and her guests for no good reason. Such discrimination has no place in our society. Our clients intend to hold those responsible accountable for this mistreatment and hope to propel the national conversation about the role of race in American life.”
So how has Bahama Breeze responded to the lawsuit and allegations? Well, so far a spokesperson for the restaurant issued the following statement:
“Everyone is welcome in our restaurants, and we strive to provide an exceptional experience for all our guests. The manager involved no longer works for us because they mistreated a guest, which is inconsistent with our values.”
This isn’t the first time Bahama Breeze has been accused of racial discrimination. Back in 2009, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against the restaurant after 37 African-American workers claimed they “had been harassed while working for the restaurant.”