An African American man who says he was asked to pay for his meal before dining at a Washington state restaurant has filed a $100,000 discrimination suit against the chain. Brian Eason is a real estate agent who also serves as a deputy with the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office in nearby Orgeon. He went to the Vancouver location of Elmer’s and was asked to prepay for his meal. Eason thought it was odd and asked his waitress about the policy:
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.'
To her credit, the waitress was not a fan of the policy, and explicitly told him it was likely discrimination:
I think it's discrimination and my boss is here, and she's forcing me to have me do this.
Eason was bothered by the incident, but didn't realize how serious it was until he returned to the restaurant 30 minutes later. He then asked white customers if they had been requested to prepay, and they had not. Jill Ramos, Elmer's director of restaurant support, released a statement on behalf of the chain:
At Elmer's, we are proud to provide a welcoming guest experience to everyone in the communities we serve. We are disappointed to hear about the complaint which occurred at one of our franchise-operated restaurants.
The use of the phrase "franchise-operated" is no accident. That's public relations language for "we had no way of knowing one of our franchisees might have racist operations policies." Unless they can prove they also made some white customers prepay, it seems like they're going to be $100,000 in the red on this one. One of these days, restaurants must learn that dumb policies and being mean to customers always gets them in trouble.