Black Sorority Members Sue Bahama Breeze for Racially Targeting Them in July Incident

Black Sorority Members Sue Bahama Breeze for Racially Targeting Them in July Incident
Courtesy of Darden Restaurants

Twenty-five members of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority today filed a lawsuit in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court against Bahama Breeze over the incident back in June when a manager at the Orange Village restaurant called the police on approximately 40 members of the African-American sorority, believing they weren't going to pay their bill.

"The Bahama Breeze Island Grille in Orange Village, Ohio invites the public to 'explore island flavors in warm and welcoming atmosphere.' But instead, the restaurant targeted Plaintiffs for dining while black," the lawsuit reads.

Court documents state the sorority members and their guests waited an hour to be seated despite having a reservation, and then endured glacial and disinterested service throughout the evening. Before most guests had eaten or received checks, a manager called the police to falsely report that the group was threatening not to pay their bill. Another manager stood with officers demanding receipts before these black patrons could leave the room, even to use the restroom. Some guests never even received their food orders.

The plaintiffs, all African-American, include educators, psychologists, medical professionals, IT professionals, journalists, authors, guidance counselors, a real estate broker and even a retired principal. "Bahama Breeze and its staff treated these professional, educated patrons like criminals because of the color of their skin," the lawsuit says. Bahama Breeze Corporate and two white managers are the defendants named in the case.

Manager Devin Jenkins seated the group in a private room, and is quoted in the documents telling the party, "You and your people cannot leave out of this room for anything." It is not Bahama Breeze's standard policy to tell guests that they cannot leave room when the entire restaurant is open to the public.

Another manager, Francis Skupnik, was the one who called the police on the group. "The assumption that the patrons in [the Plantiff's] party were not going to pay was based not on anything Plaintiffs had done but on invidious stereotypes about black criminality," according to the suit.

The Plaintiffs are represented by The Chandra Law Firm.

For this particular Bahama Breeze location, this isn't the first time they've been sued for failing to treat people of color like human beings. In 2009, the restaurant's parent company, Darden Restaurants, Inc., was forced to shell out a whopping $1.26 million in a lawsuit settlement regarding the racially targeted harassment of 37 black workers. The lawsuit claimed that managers used racial slurs, mimicked black employees and denied them work breaks.

The Cleveland chapter of Delta Sigma Theta has more than 400 members, including Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge, who previously served as president of the national chapter.
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