Group claims racial disrespect from employees at local Bahama Breeze

BEACHWOOD - Protestors gathered outside of a local restaurant after they say employees mistreated and racially profiled a group of African-American customers.

The professional women, and sorority sisters were having dinner at Bahama Breeze Island Grille in Beachwood celebrating the release of a new book by one of the women Tuesday night.

The gathering was to celebrate the release of Danielle Nelson's book “In Love There’s War,” and her departure for California. She chose the restaurant because she had always enjoyed their food.

They say the trouble started when some of the women were trying to leave while others were still waiting on their orders.

They say the restaurant manager then called the Orange Village Police Department and when officers arrived the women say they had to show their receipts and prove that they paid.

“How would you know someone is going to skip the bill if they have not yet skipped the bill,” said Cicely Philpot.

According to the police report, the restaurant employees told officers that the group of about 40 women “became upset because it was taking too long to receive their bills.” They claim the women “threatened to leave without paying.”

However, the women disagree and claim they were harassed and treated as if they “couldn’t pay their bills.”

“The police report was definitely incorrect. Everybody was joyous. Everybody was happy supporting our friend,” said Chante Spencer.

“I was shocked. I had no words. I was insulted. I was embarrassed,” said Nelson, “It was very hurtful. I cried in the car. Couldn’t even make it home.”

In a statement Bahama Breeze Senior Director of Communications Rich Jeffers said,

“We clearly fell short of delivering great service, and we’ve invited the guests back in order to provide an exceptional Bahama Breeze experience.”

The women have not ruled out litigation, but say someone must be held accountable because the treatment was offensive, upsetting and unacceptable.

In 2009 the same restaurant chain settled a $1.26 million racial harassment lawsuit with 37 African-American workers at the Beachwood location.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission the employees were frequently addressed with racial slurs such as the n-word and Aunt Jemima and homeboy.

The restaurant chain entered into a three-year consent decree under which they had to update written policies prohibiting discrimination, and provide anti-discrimination training.

Bahama Breeze never admitted to any wrong doing in the case and at the time said none of the managers were still with the business.