A black woman has filed a class-action lawsuit accusing staff at a J. Alexander’s restaurant of racism, but the company has issued a categorical statement saying all of her claims are false.
Liah Gant filed the lawsuit just days after the confusing incident on June 20 at the restaurant in West Bloomfield, Michigan in the suburbs of Detroit.
She claims that a bartender ordered her to give up her seat at the bar for two white men, took her drink away, and further claims that she was attacked by a white patron who hurled food and obscenities when she tried to complain to a manager.
The restaurant rejects those claims and said Gant’s story is easily disproved by surveillance video – though the company has yet to release any footage.
For her part, Gant released brief video clips, which do not shed much light on the matter.
Gant’s version of events
Gant claims a bartender kicked her out of her bar seat to let two white men sit down.
She says the bartender took her drink, poured it out, and refused to serve her further.
She claims another black customer intervened approached the manager to defend her.
Gant says that a white patron began screaming and cursing at her and the other black patron, and throwing food.
She says that she was ‘pushed’ out of the restaurant by staff while the white man she claims threw food was ‘protected’ and ushered out the back.
J. Alexander’s version
The restaurant says Gant was trying to save a seat for a person who wasn’t there, and the bartender informed her that seats at the bar couldn’t be saved.
J.Alexander’s says that Gant remained in her own bar seat seat and continued to enjoy drinks and food with two friends for over an hour.
The restaurant says that another patron began creating a disturbance and shouting at a manager about separate grievances.
At that point another patron threw a container of food at the disruptive customer, the restaurant says.
J. Alexander’s says the disruptive patrons were asked to leave and police were called, and all patrons left through the front door.
Though she can be heard screaming accusations and pointing at various people, no racial epithets are heard in the video, and the context of the video is unclear.
A man who appears to be the restaurant manager is seen with food smeared on his face, which he gestures to and says ‘what about this?’ as he tells Gant to leave the restaurant.
Gant’s allegations are as follows. She says that she was sitting at the bar with a drink in front of her when the bartender called over two white men to take her seat and the open seat next to her, which she was saving for a friend.
When she refused, she said the bartender took the drink away from her, poured it in the sink, and told Gant she wouldn’t serve her.
Gant said she complained to the manager, who offered her a free drink but then reneged. She claims the manager ordered the bartender to stop serving her.
At this point, Gant’s story intersects with another black patron who was at the restaurant at the same time, but whom she does not know.
Liah Gant (left and right) filed the lawsuit just days after the confusing incident on June 20
That diner, Jerrick Jefferson, told WJBK-TV that the restaurant mixed up his food order, and that he suspected racism.
Jefferson said that he began to complain to managers and accusing the restaurant of a ‘culture of racism and discrimination with respect to how they treat their patrons.’
Jefferson said that a white patron, whom he called a ‘Chaldean gentleman’, emerged from his seat and began screaming the n-word, telling him ‘n*****s go home’ and hurling food.
Chaldean Town in a neighborhood in Detroit that is populated mainly by Assyrian immigrants.
According to the video evidence, Gant had become involved in the altercation at this time, perhaps joining her own racial discrimination grievance with Jefferson’s in conversation with the managers.
The video shows Gant being asked to leave by the managers. The man she points at in the video and accuses of throwing food appears to be a patron, although he is dressed in all-back similar to a busboy.
Gant said that she was kicked out of the restaurant while the ‘thug’ who allegedly hurled the food was ‘protected’ and escorted out of the back door.
In a statement, J. Alexander’s rejected nearly every point of Gant’s claims and accused her of lying.
The restaurant location is seen above. J. Alexander’s rejected nearly every point of Gant’s claims and accused her of lying
‘The recent allegations of racial discrimination by a guest at our West Bloomfield location on June 20 are false,’ the company said in an emailed statement to Fox News.
‘Surveillance video clearly shows that the female guest making the charge of discrimination was not asked to give up her seat for white guests, the statement says.
The company said that Gant was trying to save a seat for a friend who had not yet arrived, and she was informed that seats in the pub area could not be saved.
‘She was offered a table for herself and her party in the main dining area, but declined, insisting that she stay in the pub area. Surveillance video clearly shows this female guest remains in her seat in the pub area for more than an hour enjoying beverages and dining with two acquaintances,’ the company says.
The statement also states that a separate guest, presumably Jefferson, had been ‘shouting at a disruptive manner’ at the manager and ‘uttering profanity and insults’ at the staff.
‘As he and his family were leaving the restaurant, surveillance video shows that another patron – not a restaurant employee – threw a container of food from a take-out order at the male guest and his party,’ the company said.
‘According to surveillance video, the patron who threw the container of food later left the restaurant through the front door after employees attempted to separate the two parties and diffuse the altercation to the best of their ability,’ the statement reads.
The company said that employees called police and turned over surveillance tapes, and that police will determine if the individual who threw food can be criminally prosecuted.
Gant and Jefferson are calling for all of the restaurant’s staff to be fired.
Their suit is seeking undetermined financial damages.
Jefferson called his experience a ‘throwback to segregation, throwback to Jim Crow, throwback to discrimination.’
Statement of J. Alexander’s
‘The recent allegations of racial discrimination by a guest at our West Bloomfield location on June 20 are false.
‘Surveillance video clearly shows that the female guest making the charge of discrimination was not asked to give up her seat for white guests.
‘The female guest was trying to save a seat for a friend who had not yet arrived, and she was informed that seats in the pub area could not be saved. She was offered a table for herself and her party in the main dining area, but declined, insisting that she stay in the pub area.
‘Surveillance video clearly shows this female guest remains in her seat in the pub area for more than an hour enjoying beverages and dining with two acquaintances. Further exacerbating the incident was the misbehavior of a male guest, who approached our manager and began shouting in a disruptive manner, uttering profanity and insults to members of staff. As he and his family were leaving the restaurant, surveillance video shows that another patron – not a restaurant employee – threw a container of food from a take-out order at the male guest and his party.’
‘The West Bloomfield police were called and arrived at the restaurant as guests were leaving. The police have the contact information of the individual responsible for throwing food. We have turned over the surveillance video to the police department and await a report on their investigation and their determination as to whether any formal charges related to this behavior are warranted.
‘The misrepresentation of facts in this incident are obvious. Our investigation, supported by surveillance video, points to the undeniable truth:
‘J. Alexander’s Restaurant has consistently adhered to a set of non-discriminatory standards that are as comprehensive as any in our industry. We are proud of our track record of non-discrimination during the 21 years we have been a member of the community and look forward to continuing to serve our guests with outstanding food and service.’