A black South Carolina man says a restaurant in North Charleston refused to seat his party of 25 family and friends and asked the group to leave after a white customer complained of feeling threatened, according to reports.
The man, Michael Brown, also known as Mike London, could not be reached but his Facebook post in which he gave details of this experience indicates the group waited two hours to be seated at the Wild Wing Cafe before a manager approached and later refused to seat the group.
The chief marketing officer for the chain of restaurants based in Mount Pleasant, S.C., said the manager involved in the alleged incident is on leave until an investigation can be completed. She confirmed the group had been offered an apology and meals all around and said the restaurant has a meeting planned for later this week with some members of the restaurant party.
"It's not an us vs. them — we really join them in their concern," said the chief marketing officer, Debra Stokes. "We have a zero tolerance of any kind. We have a diverse collection of individuals within our organization. We have always prided ourselves on inviting everyone into our restaurants."
Michael Brown's Facebook post has attracted the attention of news media in this country and overseas and the post had been shared about 3,000 times as of Monday evening.
Brown and his group arrived at the Wild Wing Cafe to celebrate his cousin's last day in Charleston, according to the Daily Mail. The group waited "patiently" before being told a white customer was "threatened by us," Brown wrote in his Facebook post.
Wrote Brown on Thursday on Facebook, "The manager looked me dead in the face and said she was refusing us service because she had a right to and simply she felt like it."
Brown told WCSC TV in Charleston that the shift manager told the group there was a "situation."
"She said, 'There's a situation where one of our customers feels threatened by your party, so she asked us not to seat you in our (sic) section,' which totally alarmed all of us because we're sitting there peaceably for two hours," Brown told the news organization. "Obviously, if we were causing any conflict, we would have been ejected out of the place hours before."
At that point, Brown said, someone in his group began to videotape the conversation. The manager became upset and refused to seat the group, Brown told WCSC.
"I said, 'So, you're telling me I have to leave?' She said, 'I have a right to deny you service.' I said, 'So you're asking me to leave because you're upset because he was recording you, after we've waited for two hours, and after you've already pretty much discriminated on us?' And she answered, 'Yes.' "
Stokes told WCSC that she had a "really good conversation" with Brown about the incident.
"He and many of his family and friends were there about a month ago, and they are regular customers of ours," she said. "They were having a going-away party and they just didn't receive the experience that they have come to know and love."
Brown said the restaurant's apology and offer of free meals are not good enough.
"This is not a situation where you can just give us a free meal and everything is OK," he told the news organization. "It goes deeper than that."