IHOP on Richmond Rd. cited for alleged discrimination

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March 27, 2007

1:26 PM

According to Williamsburg area resident Kristie Ross, she and her cousin, Sheena Washington, were recently denied service at the International House of Pancakes on Richmond Road because they are black.

p. Just before 2 a.m. March 10, Ross allegedly was told by the night manager that she was banned from the IHOP, despite never having eaten there before.

p. “She said ‘You people don’t know how to act,’” Ross told the Daily Press. “I said, ‘Who is you people?”

p. According to the Daily Press article, Ross claimed to witness a number of incidents of discrimination while she tried to call the phone number for IHOP’s headquarters to complain. Ross said she watched as several groups of white customers were seated while nearly 40 black customers were turned away.

p. Another black customer who was denied service, Sherrell Roane, also said she was discriminated against.

p. “When we looked in, that’s all we seen was Caucasian, no African-American people,” she said on a WAVY-TV news report.

p. A white customer, Alaina Northern, was ordering food for a black friend when she said the manager noticed for whom she was ordering.

p. “She realized the to-go order was for him, and she said she was going to refund the money. She went to the register, got the money, gave it back to me and asked us to leave,” Northern said.

p. Police were already near the IHOP because of an earlier brawl at the Library Tavern. Officers reported that approximately 70 customers, many of whom were black, were turned away between 1 and 2 a.m.

p. “A lot of them were being very rowdy, cussing,” Major Jay Sexton of the Williamsburg Police Department said. He added that IHOP, as a 24-hour restaurant, often has issues with drunk and disorderly late-night customers.

p. Georgia Owen, the night manager who turned the women away, turned comments over to IHOP spokesman Patrick Lenow. He said that the restaurant may deny service to people who are or previously have been disruptive, and that when one unruly group was asked to leave, some innocent people may accidentally have been denied service in the confusion.

p. “We’re sorry that happened because that is never our intent,” Lenow said. “Most important is the safety and security of our guests, and that’s why the decision was made.”

p. “It’s discrimination in the worst way when you say you can’t be seated because you don’t know how to act,” Ross told the Daily Press. “You can’t judge me because this person or that person starts trouble. You can’t judge every black person because of one.”

p. Ross said that she has contacted the NAACP, which is looking into the matter and may conduct an official investigation. Calls to the local NAACP office went unanswered.

p. This racial discrimination suit comes on the tail of a similar suit against IHOP. According to the March 24 Wichita Star, four women were forced to leave a Kansas City IHOP earlier this month after two of them kissed.

p. According to the women, the kiss was tame.

p. “It was a casual kiss,” one of the women, Eva Sandoval, said. “It was the sort of kiss I would give my grandfather.”

p. IHOP, however, claims that the kiss was overtly amorous and that the manager asked the women to tone down the public display.

p. “We’re welcoming to all. That’s how we built our business for 50 years,” Lenow said. “What’s not welcome at our restaurants are bold displays of affection, with open-mouth kissing and caressing.”

p. The women, along with gay rights group PROMO, the Missouri LGBT equality organization, protested outside the Kansas City IHOP last Friday. They initially demanded an official apology and for the manager to be fired, although they later demanded only sensitivity training.

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