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Alabama Restaurant Refused to Host Black Fraternity Event, Citing ‘Problems with Your Kind,’ Lawsuit Alleges

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The fraternity said it offered to pay for extra security, but the restaurant still refused to host their event. (Image courtesy of CNN)

A Black fraternity is alleging racial discrimination after an Alabama restaurant refused to host their yearly event, claiming it’s had “problems with your kind before.”

“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,” said Clifton Warren, president of the Tuscaloosa alumni chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi. “We want to let the community know that this type of behavior shall not and will not be tolerated by any organization.”

Last week, the predominately Black fraternity filed a discrimination suit against the Cypress Inn after the restaurant reneged on renting an event space to them in February, according to CNN. In their complaint, the fraternity says it paid $1,500 in December to reserve a space on the restaurant’s waterfront pavilion for a Feb. 23 gathering. However, the Cypress Inn canceled the reservation and refunded their deposit just weeks before the event was scheduled to take place.

Warren said that when he went to the restaurant to finalize the arrangements, a staff member informed him they could no longer have their event there due to security concerns. The staff member, who is white, said she didn’t realize Warren’s fraternity was an “all-black” group,” the lawsuit alleges.

Warren said he explained that the organization’s membership was comprised of “African-American professionals and business leaders,” and even offered to pay for extra security. The restaurant still refused, however.

The chapter president told CNN that’s when the restaurant’s owner, Renea Henson, told him, “We’ve had problems with your kind before.”

The Cypress Inn has called the group’s discrimination claims “completely false,” insisting its decision not to host them had nothing to do with race. The restaurant said it made its decision after consulting with the company that provides its security.

“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 [of] party out of concern for public safety,” the restaurant said.

Their safety concerns reportedly stem from an October 2016 incident where three people were shot in a nearby gas station parking lot. The private party hosted by a Black frat was shut down after it got too crowded. Speaking with the Tuscaloosa News at the time, Henson said restaurant contract stated that no more than 350 guests were allowed, yet more than twice as many people showed up to the event.

This year’s gathering billed as “Blackout on the River,”  was expected to have around 300 guests, Warren told CNN. He said the fraternity’s alumni chapter throws the yearly event to raise money for college scholarships, donate supplies to elementary schools and other philanthropic efforts. Warren said the Cypress Inn’s decision to nix their event left members of his frat feeling “very disheartened.”

Their lawsuit seeks monetary damages, including compensation for financial losses the group incurred when it was forced to move the event to another location, and an injunction barring The Cypress Inn from discrimination 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.”

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