A class action lawsuit in Manhattan filed on Friday that charged two black customers who were denied entry to a popular hookah lounge with a history of racial discrimination.
A bouncer from the Pergola showroom in the Flatiron District asked the couple to leave in January this year, stating that the manager “does not let such black people in,” according to a federal court testimony. Plaintiffs Joshua Smith and Cameron Niles were initially dismissed for being too sloppy in dress before knowing the real motivation for what happened.
They both left the lounge “completely humiliated that they were banned from dining because of their race, as if they were living in South Jim Crow instead of New York City around 2022,” according to the 29-page class lawsuit.
“The history of accidental racism in Pergola has caused untold humiliation and psychological harm to dozens, if not hundreds of black patrons over the years,” said Susan Crumiller, a plaintiffs and proposed client attorney in the class action.
“We hope that while pursuing these claims across the class, we are sending a message to Pergola that her racist behavior must stop. Period.”
The plaintiffs, clad in button-up shirts and pants, were described as stunned by their rejection shortly after arriving at Uber for a dinner reservation.
“Their confusion turned to pain and humiliation when they immediately noticed a group of white customers leaving the restaurant in jeans and sweatpants,” the lawsuit alleged. “It became clear that Pergola was selectively invoking its dress code as an excuse to deny Smith and Niles entry on the basis of their race.”
Get updated on the coronavirus pandemic and other news as it happens with our free breaking news email alerts.
The class action is aimed at targeting all “black and brown customers and / or attempted customers” who have been denied access to the lounge.
The report also featured multiple social media posts showing white customers in torn jeans, baseball caps, T-shirts, and denim shirts while people of color were not represented.
Email and phone message left at the restaurant for comment was not immediately returned.
The restaurant’s website boasts that “from the official dinner to the evening revels, PERGOLA really is ITS OWN CULTURE.”
The action is aimed at punitive and compensatory damages, together with “further redress that the court deems appropriate”.
According to court records, both men remain affected by their treatment in the restaurant.
“The racist, illegitimate and dehumanizing actions of Pergola caused deep humiliation and enduring emotional stress to Smith and Niles,” the paper reads. “To this day, they feel restless when they approach bars, restaurants … which brings back painful memories.”
#Class #Action #Discrimination #Lawsuit #Claims #Manhattan #Hookah #Salon #Drove #Minority #Customers