A lawsuit says an African-American man was asked to “prepay” for his meal at Elmer’s Restaurant in Vancouver, Washington, while white customers were not.
Brian Eason, a sheriff’s deputy in Multnomah County, Washington, and a local realtor, went to have breakfast at Elmer’s on Dec. 16, 2014. He says the restaurant asked him to prepay for his meal but didn’t ask any of the white customers in the restaurant to do the same.
Now Eason, 44, has filed a $100,000 discrimination lawsuit against the restaurant chain. The suit claims a waitress took his order and then “demanded that he prepay for his meal.”
“I was kind of curious about it and said, ‘Well, is that new?’ and she said ‘yes, we had a few walk-aways and my boss asked me to ask for prepayment,'” Eason told OregonLive.
Eason said he didn’t think much of it until the waitress wanted prepayment again when he ordered a drink.
"I said, 'This is kind of odd that I have to prepay every time I order my food and drink,'" Eason said. "She said, 'I think it's discrimination and my boss is here, and she's forcing me to have me do this.'"
Eason said the waitress was apologetic and that he felt bad for her. He gave her a big tip and a $10 Starbucks gift card that he planned to give to a client.
Roughly 30 minutes after leaving the restaurant, Eason felt bothered by what the waitress told him, so he went back to the restaurant and walked up to two white customers who were eating their meal and asked them if they were asked to prepay for their meals. They said they weren’t, so he asked for their names and phone numbers, which they provided.
The restaurant is owned and operated by Karsan, Inc., as a franchise. Karsan and the parent corporation, Elmer’s Restaurants, are listed as defendants in the suit.
Representatives from Karsan directed questions to Elmer’s, and Elmer’s would not comment on the case to OregonLive, but said it was “actively looking” into what happened.
"At Elmer's, we are proud to provide a welcoming Guest experience to everyone in the communities we serve," Jill Ramos, the chain's director of restaurant support, wrote. "We are disappointed to hear about the complaint which occurred at one of our franchise-operated restaurants."
Eason said that he was unsure if he was going to do anything initially, but he was unable to sleep the night of the incident and his family suggested he take action.
“My office is right down the street there,” Eason said. “It’s a constant reminder of ‘They don’t want me in there.’”
The lawsuit is asking for $100,000 in damages because Eason has suffered “loss of sleep and feelings of racial stigmatization.”