Black customers at a popular Washington, D.C., restaurant are accusing the business of racial profiling after they said they were unfairly held to a policy requiring customers provide identification until their bills are paid.
Tiff Aziz created a Facebook post Saturday about an experience she called “unreal” when she took her daughter Parahdyce Aziz to the Alero restaurant on U Street.
Her post has since gone viral and was shared more than 2,000 times before being restricted on her page.
Aziz said in a repost of the original that she initially didn’t have a problem with the request to provide her ID because she was told it was the restaurant’s policy for everyone.
“I complied, until I watched when a caucasian man walked in, sat next to us and ordered, his information was not collected at all,” she said.
The staff didn’t even mention the policy to the white man, the mother added.
“I felt some kind of way,” she said.
Aziz asked to speak to a manager she identified as Roberto, and he confirmed the policy was for all people and said he would check on the discrepancy, the woman said.
“However, he disappeared and never checked on it at all,” Aziz said. “We waited about 20 min, the man received his drinks and food with no issues. Well I will not be back, I know for a fact that we were racially profiled. SMH!!!!”
Aiesha P. described a similar experience in a Yelp review giving the restaurant one out of five stars Saturday.
“This establishment is extremely racist,” she wrote in the review. “They only ask to hold African Americans ID before they even order food. I highly recommend NOT to dine here!”
Although at least three other reviewers detailed similar experiences, many of the Tex-Mex restaurant’s feedback focused on the quality of food. It earned two and a half stars on Yelp.
Victor Martinez, the owner of Alero locations on U Street and Connecticut Avenue, told the Washington City Paper the policy was only supposed to apply to patio and lounge areas because of a high number of “walk-outs” but he admitted it was confusing.
He told the newspaper that in Aziz’s situation, the white diner’s server did not follow instructions and was suspended for two days without pay.
Martinez also said of Aziz’s now-viral post that the restaurant has been inundated with phone calls, some including death threats. He instituted a new policy Sunday that only asks customers seated in the patio and lounge areas for a credit card at all times and makes the same rule for those in the restaurant’s dining room after 10 p.m., the Washington City Paper reported.
Still, he defended the old policy to the newspaper.
“The [old] policy is not based on race at all,” Martinez said.
He told the paper that when he immigrated to the United States from Colombia in 1994, he lived with and worked for an African-American family.
“Our employees are trained to treat every customer equally and respectfully,” he added.
Aziz told the City Paper a representative from the company gave her a “generic” apology and she still doesn’t plan on returning to the restaurant.