A Black man has filed suit against an Oregon restaurant that asked him to prepay for his meal, according to Reuters. Brian Eason, a Multnomah County sheriff’s deputy and local real estate agent, said he visited Elmer’s restaurant in Vancouver, Wash. last December and was told by a waitress that the company’s policy required customers to pay before they received their meal.
The waitress said the new rule had been instituted because some customers had left without paying. She also apologized for the policy which she described as “discriminatory.” Eason complied with her request, but later asked a white couple, who were also dining in the restaurant, if they received the same request. The couple was surprised by the question.
“They were somewhat incredulous that anyone would ask such a question. Of course, they were not asked to prepay,” said Greg Kafoury, Eason’s lawyer.
After consulting with his family, Eason decided to take legal action against Karson, Inc., the company that owns Elmer’s. He has filed a lawsuit claiming “racial stigmatization” and has requested $100,000 in damages.
According to The Oregonian, an Elmer’s representative said she couldn’t comment on pending litigation.
“At Elmer’s, we are proud to provide a welcoming guest experience to everyone in the communities we serve,” said Jill Ramos, the chain’s director of restaurant support. “We are disappointed to hear about the complaint which occurred at one of our franchise-operated restaurants.”
Eason said the restaurant’s policy was a way of telling Black customers they were not welcome.
“My office is right down the street there,” Eason said. “It’s a constant reminder of ‘They don’t want me in there.'”
Kafoury said people need to take a stand when they encounter racism.
“It’s important that young Black kids grow up in a world where they know that when they are discriminated against they don’t have to take it,” Kafoury told Reuters. “That was an important part of his decision to file a lawsuit.”
According to Reuters, Denny’s faced a similar lawsuit in 1994 after they received complaints from thousands of Black customers. Denny’s agreed to settle the suit for $54 million.