A black fraternity filed a lawsuit in federal court last week, accusing a Tuscaloosa, Ala., restaurant of racial discrimination after they were denied the opportunity to rent an event space because, as the restaurant put it, “We’ve had problems with your kind before.”
The incident actually occurred back in February and now the Tuscaloosa alumni chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi is seeking compensation for financial losses that members of the frat incurred when they had to move the event to another location, CNN reports.
The Cypress Inn, the restaurant in question, has denied the allegations calling them “completely untrue.”
The lawsuit details how the frat spent $1,500 last December to reserve a waterfront pavilion at the Cypress Inn for a Feb. 23 event, however on Feb. 6, the Inn canceled the reservation, refunding the deposit.
Clifton Warren, president of the Tuscaloosa chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi, explained that he went to the restaurant to make final arrangements when the staff told him that the event could no longer take place due to security concerns, CNN notes. Apparently, the staff member, who was a white woman, said she didn’t realize that the meeting was for an “all-black” group.
Warren offered to pay for additional security and assume liability, explaining that the group was made up of “African-American professionals and business leaders,” but the restaurant still declined, with owner Renea Henson saying, “We’ve had problems with your kind before.”
The Cypress Inn told CNN that the refusal was solely a security matter.
“Our outside security firm recommended against hosting the party because the fraternity was proposing to sell tickets to the public, and our security firm strongly recommended against hosting that type party out of concern for public safety,” the restaurant said.
Apparently, back in October 2016, three people were shot at a nearby gas station parking lot after a private party hosted by a black fraternity at the Cypress Inn was shut down. The contract stated no more than 350 people were allowed, yet some 700 showed up.
Regardless, the frat found the behavior of the restaurant unacceptable.
“We don’t feel that anyone should be discriminated against or taken advantage of because of perceived notions of conduct in the past from any organization,” Warren said to CNN. “We want to let the community know that this type of behavior shall not and will not be tolerated by any organization.”
“This is 2018, and this is just not acceptable,” Roderick T. Cooks, an attorney representing the chapter, added. “There’s no place for it, especially here in this state, where sensitivity should be heightened to this kind of thing.”
However, Cypress Inn is not backing down.
“We look forward to presenting the complete facts to the court,” the restaurant said to CNN. “We are confident we will prevail.”