Approximately 40 members of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority were celebrating one of their sorority sister's impending move to California when the manager of Bahama Breeze in Orange Village allegedly racially profiled the group by calling the police this week, believing they weren't going to pay their bill.
Chante Spencer spoke to Cleveland.com on Wednesday, stating trouble began after a sorority member, who had been waiting 25 minutes for her bill, said she was going to leave.
Although the woman ultimately waited and paid the bill, Spencer said that police were still called and the manager wanted officers to wait until each member of the party paid their bills as well.
In her interview with Cleveland.com, Spencer said "Police were standing there to make sure everyone paid, which we felt was racial profiling."
The news quickly spread across social media.
Bahama Breeze's twitter page is currently flooded with personal apologies to people complaining about the racial profiling.
Hi Damien. We are concerned to hear about what transpired. We are taking this very seriously and are currently looking into this.— Bahama Breeze (@BahamaBreeze) June 20, 2018
Bahama Breeze is part of Florida-based Darden Restaurants, the parent umbrella that also owns Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse. Darden's senior director of communications, Rich Jeffers, offered a brief statement to cleveland.com stating, "We clearly fell short of delivering great service, and we've invited the guests back in order to provide an exceptional Bahama Breeze experience."
According to the police report provided by Orange Village, the manager informed police that some members of the sorority threatened to leave without paying, and the manager requested the police stay until the bills were paid because members of the group caused a "disturbance" and used profanity toward the manager.
The police report does confirm that all of the bills were paid and the police were on premises for about one hour after arriving around 8:30 p.m. Police did not take any action against any of the sorority members, and the report states that one member of the party told police when they arrived that she would be staying to ensure all bills were paid.
Given that the group celebrating was predominately female and people of color, it's difficult not to view this incident as anything other than racial profiling.
A protest is underway in front of the restaurant this evening.
This isn't the first time Bahama Breeze has come under fire for their racial insensitivity. Back in 2009, it paid $1.26 million to settle complaints about alleged racial harassment of 37 black workers at this exact location.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the lawsuit in 2008, alleging that managers at the restaurant had repeatedly harassed black employees by using racial slurs, mimicking black employees and denying them work breaks.
In addition to the $1.26 million payout, Bahama Breeze had to update its chain-wide discrimination and harassment policies and provide anti-discrimination and diversity training to its Beachwood employees and managers.
Looks like it's back to the drawing board.