A predominantly black fraternity in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is suing a local restaurant it says refused to rent an event space to members because, they were told, “we’ve had problems with your kind before.”
The Tuscaloosa Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi filed a racial discrimination lawsuit in U.S. District Court on June 27 accusing the Cypress Inn of two counts of racial discrimination stemming from February, when the group attempted to rent a pavilion, according to Al.com.
The complaint accuses the restaurant of not offering the same services to the predominantly black organization that it would provide to white customers.
The suit claims the alumni group planned a social event and fundraiser at the Inn for Feb. 23 and paid a $1,500 reservation fee, according to the Tuscaloosa News.
However, the Cypress Inn canceled the event on Feb. 6 and refunded the deposit after meeting with chapter President Clifton Warren.
He said he went to the restaurant to make final arrangements only to have a staff member tell him that, due to security concerns, the inn would no longer host the event, according to CNN.
The lawsuit says the staff member, a white woman, told Warren she hadn’t known his organization was an “all black” group.
Warren said he explained that the fraternity’s membership consisted of “African-American professionals and business leaders,” and he offered to pay for additional security and to assume liability.
Despite that, the restaurant still refused, and Warren told CNN that the restaurant’s owner, Renea Henson, told him, “We’ve had problems with your kind before.”
The group ended up holding its event at another location, but the change of venue caused the fraternity to lose money from the event, which was supposed to raise funds for local mentoring programs, according to the lawsuit.
The restaurant insists the allegations of discrimination “are completely untrue,” and released a statement to The Associated Press on Tuesday:
“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.
“We look forward to presenting the complete facts to the Court. We are confident we will prevail.”
The fraternity chapter seeks monetary damages as well as an injunction barring the restaurant from discriminating in the future.
“This is 2018, and this is just not acceptable,” Roderick T. Cooks, an attorney representing the chapter, told CNN. “There’s no place for it, especially here in this state, where sensitivity should be heightened to this kind of thing.”