Retired NBA All-Star Joe Barry and a friend claim that they were kicked out of the bar of a ritzy Atlanta restaurant because they were black. The restaurant says they were simply asked to leave because of a long-standing practice rooted in Southern hospitality that allows women a seat at the bar when the place is packed.
Those arguments were made Monday at the start of the weeklong federal trial of a lawsuit filed against the Tavern at Phipps by Carroll and attorney Joseph Shaw.
"You're probably thinking: Two black gentlemen go to a bar — this is a joke," Jeffrey Bramlett, the men's lawyer, told the jury during opening arguments. "But it's no joke. The evidence will show a serious civil rights violation."
The restaurant's lawyer, David Long-Daniels, says the establishment's goal is to be accommodating to women who have finished shopping at the attached upscale mall.
"If they feel comfortable, they'll stay. And if they stay, the men will come. It's not about race, it's really about green," he said.
But Bramlett said that interviews with current and former employees show that race may actually be part and parcel of the establishment's plan to maximize "green," by keep the establishment free of what restaurant head Greg Greenbaum is accused of calling "black thugs."
He says that interviews with staffers and former employees reveal that Greenbaum encouraged managers to avoid hiring too many black staffers and limited black hostesses on peak nights, and told staffers to "slow-serve" black patrons during hectic times, And during the February 2003 NBA All-Star Game, when young black basketball fans crowded the city, the restaurant hung large "Welcome Rodeo Fans" banners and played country music, according to court records.
It was all aimed at attracting "white businessmen and well-endowed women" at the expense of black patrons, Bramlett said.
The bartender who served the men that night disagrees. "Everything in life is not about race," he said.
It will be a great day when all public establishments actually embrace that view.
Read more at the Huffington Post.
In other news: New Miss Universe: Angola's Lelia Lopes.