(NNPA) - A discrimination lawsuit filed against a popular Atlanta restaurant by two customers, a former NBA player and a prominent local lawyer, may soon go to trial.
Former NBA all-star Joe Barry Carroll and Atlanta lawyer Joseph Shaw say they were escorted out of the Tavern at Phipps restaurant in August 2006 for refusing to give up their seats to White women, EURweb.com reported.
According to court filings, Carroll and Shaw said they were eating and drinking at the restaurant's bar when they were repeatedly asked to give up their seats to White women. Both men declined, saying they weren't finished eating. They noticed that no White men had been asked to get up and there were also several vacant seats at the bar. Atlanta police arrived at the restaurant 20 minutes later and escorted the two men off of the premises.
The incident is the subject of federal lawsuits filed by the two men, who claim they were humiliated by the situation and the restaurant violated public accommodation and civil rights laws.
A federal judge is expected to decide soon whether the case should be taken to trial, following two years of pretrial litigation.
The restaurant's managers said the suit should be dropped because they believe they did nothing wrong.
"The plaintiffs' allegations about racial discrimination are unfounded, unsubstantiated and specious," Simon Bloom III, general counsel for the bar's management company told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I can unequivocally say that the Tavern operates a color-blind business. It does not take race, color or creed into account for any aspect of its operations."
Representatives from the Tavern at Phipps said the restaurant strives to maintain a courteous and chivalrous atmosphere and that, when all bar seats are occupied, it is an unwritten practice to ask male customers sitting at the bar who are not eating to offer their seats to female patrons.
"The evidence shows that Carroll and Shaw were asked to give up their seats solely because they are men, not because they are African-American," representatives from the restaurant told the Journal-Constitution.
In pretrial testimony, former employees of the Tavern said the restaurant limited the number of African-American hostesses on busy nights, removed Heineken and Hennessey Cognac from the menu because they were popular among young Black customers, and purposely delayed service to Black patrons, especially in the bar area.