Don’t let Love & Hip-Hop, The Real Housewives of Atlanta or even Chrisley Knows Best fool you. The most valuable real estate in metro Atlanta isn’t in Buckhead, Sandy Springs, Midtown or even the gentrifying neighborhoods of SWAT (Southwest Atlanta). Nope, the most valuable real estate in Atlanta are those elusive 5' by 12" white leather couches sparingly laid out amongst the dozens of high-end restaurants and lounges in the city on a Friday or Saturday night.
There are never enough places to sit in Atlanta lounges. There will be 300 people in the room, 12 different mini-tables and only one couch hidden in the back behind a velvet rope dipped in vibranium with a dusty old “reserved” sign there all night just to mock you and your tired legs.
Needless to say, couch space is at a premium in the city, so if you want to celebrate a birthday, promotion or reunion weekend you better reserve that couch months in advance, and when your party arrives plant a flag on that thing like you’re claiming it in the name of Mars. When somebody doesn’t respect boundaries of the lounge couch, let alone while being drunk and racist, there will be problems. Which is exactly what happened at the Overdrive Lounge at the Solis Two Porsche Drive Hotel in Atlanta last Thursday.
Kodili Okechuwu (pronounced like “Cuddly”) was part of a group of six black professionals out celebrating a birthday at the Overdrive Lounge last Thursday.
“We were loving it, we were all talking about how we were gonna tell everyone else about it and come back,” Okechuwu told The Root. That is until #LineSteppingLisa came on the scene.
An older Asian woman, who appeared to be drunk, plopped down on the birthday party couch and began talking loudly to other people. At first, Okechuwu’s group ignored her, but when they politely asked the woman to leave she refused, first demanding that they prove the table was reserved and then just ignoring them and inviting her other friends to the couch.
“So I started filming her, I just wanted to shine a light on her face, like scare her off like a rabbit or something,” Okechuwu said.
Unfortunately it wasn’t rabbit season, because not only did the woman not move but she went full Rick James and started telling the black folk to “Shut the fuck up” and insisted that she wasn’t moving. The party complained to the manager, Ricardo Pomales, who appears to be much more accommodating to the party crasher than the people she was harassing.
Drunk on privilege and smirking with satisfaction, the woman tells the manager maybe if the group had been nicer she would have considered moving. At the same time the manager is coddling this woman, he turns around demanding that Okechuwu stop filming this four-act play of privilege for “privacy reasons.”
After almost 10 minutes of not asking #LineSteppingLisa to get up and move, a member of the party tapped the manager on the shoulder to ask when the woman would be escorted out. On the video above, you can hear Pomales yell “Please don’t touch me or I’ll have you escorted out of here!” He then follows up by telling the black party of six that they’re being “aggressive” while the woman is laughing in the background with her friends, putting her muddy shoes all up on that couch. Frustrated and embarrassed, the black folks start to leave making it clear this wasn’t over.
When will the nonseasoned and nonseasoned-adjacent learn that Black Twitter is undefeated when it comes to these kinds of stories? I should pitch a show to BET about a group of black internet detectives who spend all day taking video screenshots and finding white supremacists, #BBQBeckys and Starbucks managers. Okechuwu posted video of the whole ordeal on Friday, August 10 and by Monday morning she got a DM anonymously identifying the woman as Sonya Pate, a customer experience manager at Porsche in Annapolis, Md.
Okechuwu made several attempts to contact the Annapolis Porsche office to complain about Pate’s behavior to no avail. When she finally got a call back Tuesday afternoon, it was from Sonya Pate herself, obviously concerned that the story was going viral (she’d shut down her LinkedIn page). She attempted to apologize and it did not go well. Okechuwu pulled a full Omarosa and recorded everything.
“You’re obviously very angry,” Pate says.
“I’m not angry,” responds Okechuwu.
“So what is it you want to get out of this?” says Pate. “I just wanted to find out because it seems like, you are angry and instead of going back and forth, as two women, we could have a conversation if you don’t mind.”
Never let it be said that only white women can employ white privilege, because, to paraphase Webster’s dictionary, this might be one of the Beckiest phone calls of all time. If there’s anything America learned from the Zimmerman trial, it’s that white privilege is like a bus pass; if you’re sneaky enough, it’s transferable.
Nonwhite people of color regularly employ white supremacist rhetoric and attitudes to carry out anti-black racism. Pate implies that Okechuwu and her friends are trying to “get something” as opposed to simply being customers who were mistreated for no reason. When that doesn’t fly, she pulls the “woman solidarity card,” which is funny because Sonya Pate didn’t see any gender kinship with that group of black women when she was mocking them behind her wine glass as they were being drummed out of the Overdrive Lounge.
Turns out Pate was only trying to save herself, because by the end of business Tuesday, Solis Two Hotel released a Facebook statement of semi-apology and defense, and literally 30 minutes later, Porsche of Annapolis fired Sonya Pate for her off-duty behavior. In the immortal words of Smokey, how you get fired on your day off ?
The Root spoke to Andy McGowan, a spokesperson for the Solis Two Porsche hotel and asked him about the hotel’s version of that night and how things have been handled since.
“I don’t have a good answer for you on that,” McGowan said, noting that he didn’t have a full timeline. “But there are some factual inaccuracies out there that just aren’t true.”
He directed me to the Solis Hotel Facebook statement that insists no one was asked to leave. Okechuwu says some of her party were asked and some were not. Also, the manager of Overdrive Lounge met with and apologized to the birthday couple, but hasn’t spoken to other frustrated guests. There may even be some question about what table the party had reserved. Mind you, none of this changes the basic facts that a customer was vulgar and rude to a bunch of black patrons, and they, by force or frustration, ended up leaving while she stayed. Even though Pate lost her job, this situation is by no means over.
As for the rest of us who weren’t in Atlanta last Thursday, what’s the lesson here? First, always record any type of harassment you receive in public places, and put it on social media, share it with friends and family and anyone who will listen. That’s the only way businesses and employees will get the message. Next, never forget that anti-black racism is performed by nonwhite people all the time. Sonya Pate and manager Ricardo Pomales are both people of color, yet their treatment of a group of black customers was indistinguishable from any racist white person at Starbucks, a black cop in Baltimore, or an Asian shop owner in Brooklyn. Also know this—the Overdrive Lounge just opened in April and because of this incident their Yelp reviews are already in ruins. Looks like the couch real-estate there just got a lot cheaper.