A Black woman is alleging racial discrimination after she says employees at J. Alexander’s in West Bloomfield, Michigan, asked her to give up her seat to a white man, then refused to serve her when she declined.
Now, she and her attorney are calling for the employees involved to be fired.
Liah Gant appeared with her attorney, Maurice Davis, for a Tuesday press conference, where they were joined by Jerrick Jefferson, a man who claims he was also discriminated against by restaurant workers that same night.
“We refuse to backslide into a nation where Black people are told to give up their seats to white people, [and] where Black people are denied services at restaurants,” Davis told reporters.
Gant said the incident unfolded last Thursday when she was sitting at the bar, waiting for a friend who hadn’t arrived yet. The seat next to her was vacant, but she was trying to save it for her friend. Still, she claims the bartender flagged down two white men who were looking for a place to sit.
“I was racially profiled,” said Gant. “I was told to move out of my seat for two other white men to be seated.”
When she objected to the men taking her seats, Gant claimed the bartender snatched the drink she was drinking, poured it out and refused to continue serving her. Shocked, Gant said she immediately complained to a restaurant manager, who allegedly told her she shouldn’t be upset because “the drink wasn’t thrown on me.”
According to Davis, the manager initially told Gant she wouldn’t be charged for the tossed drink, but had a “change of heart” and made her pay for it anyway. The manager also allegedly commented that there are “two sides to every story.”
“In this incident, that manager chose to be on the wrong side,” Davis said, according to FOX 2 Detroit.“That manager chose the side that says ‘it’s OK to be racist towards your black patrons, it’s OK to deny them service, it’s OK to deny them their basic humanity.”
In addition to being booted from her seat, Gant claims the bartender was instructed to continue serving everyone but her.
A similar incident occurred that same evening when Jerrick Jefferson says he was subjected to racist slurs and had food thrown at him after he and his friends were allegedly profiled by restaurant staff. When he confronted a manager about the issue, he said she brushed it off and walked away.
Video taken during the incident also shows a white patron shouting at Jefferson before chucking a bag of food at him and his girlfriend.
“I suggest to all Black people looking at this press conference that it’s time for us to not spend our money with people that are racist,” Jeffferson said at the press conference. “Racism starts with management. The managers at the restaurant are racist. They should be terminated.”
Gant and Jefferson do not know each other, but are both pushing for the workers involved to be terminated.
“If J. Alexander refuses to recognize my client’s dignity at a restaurant, we will make sure they recognize her dignity in a court of law,” Gant’s attorney said.
In a statement, J. Alexander’s responded to the allegations, which read in part:
“We have always adhered to a strict non-discrimination policy for all our restaurant staff and guests to ensure the best possible working and dining environment. This includes treating every customer with the same non-discriminatory service. We do not tolerate any diversion from this policy and likewise do not tolerate any inappropriate behavior from either guests or employees.”