Members of a black sorority filed a lawsuit Monday against Bahama Breeze Holdings, Inc. in response to an incident in June when two managers called the Orange Village police and reported guests from a black sorority at a private party were "unruly guests," the lawsuit says.
The complaint alleges that on June 19, author Danielle Nelson hosted a private party at the Bahama Breeze in Orange Village to celebrate her upcoming move and book deal. Most of the guests were members of the Greater Cleveland Alumnae Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
The lawsuit states that from the moment the party arrived, the staff treated the party with hostility.
The two white managers at the store called police and falsely reported that the group were "unruly guests" who were "threatening to walk out without paying," the lawsuit says.
The sorority group alleges that the white managers' false reports to police were motivated by not what the party was doing, but the stereotypes the managers had about black criminality.
Officers left the restaurant 30 to 45 minutes later but remained conspicuously parked by the entrance as the group left the restaurant, the lawsuit says.
Before police arrived, the party was accosted and forced to prove they had paid before being permitted to leave the private party area, the lawsuit alleges.
"Everyone is welcome in our restaurants, and we strive to provide an exceptional experience for all our guests. The manager involved no longer works for us because they mistreated a guest, which is inconsistent with our values," said Rich Jeffers, spokesperson for Darden Restaurants.
The Chandra Law Firm, the firm representing the group, also mentioned that Bahama Breeze paid $1.26 million to settle a class-action lawsuit for racial harassment of 37 black workers at the same location.
In the lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Bahama Breeze managers addressed black staff with racial slurs while imitating their mannerisms and speech.