A Black couple is suing a popular Memphis restaurant for $1 million sfter the white manager accused them of smelling like weed and forced them to leave, according to a federal lawsuit.
What Happened: A Black couple from Mississippi who were visiting family in Tennessee denied they smelled like weed but the manager of Houston’s Restaurant insisted. She called a police officer who escorted the pair outside. While outside, a second police officer told the couple the manager “regularly interacted this way towards Black patrons,” the complaint says.
The couple, Dechandria Bass and Dwan Brown filed a $1 million lawsuit on Thursday against the Hillstone Restaurant Group, Inc., the company that runs Houston’s, as well as its general manager and the manager who forced them to leave the establishment, the complaint shows.
Carlos Moore, the attorney representing the pair said they were victims of racial profiling and at no point smelled like marijuana.
“Black people should be able to dine in peace, not being harassed and escorted out over some nonsense,” Moore said.
Bass and Brown were in Memphis visiting Brown’s mother and cousin, according to the complaint. The mother and cousin arrived at the table as the situation began to play out.
“My clients have remained adamant that they did not smoke weed or smell like weed and say they were victims of racial profiling,” Moore said, per Action News 5 Memphis. “We try to negotiate with Houston’s to try to keep this out of federal court, but Houston’s corporate office would not negotiate or respond to us in any way.”
The defendants publicly shamed the couple and subjected them to humiliation witnessed by other customers, the complaint says. Bass and Brown are seeking damages for embarrassment, emotional distress and mental anguish they experienced as a result of the incident. They are seeking $500,000 each in damages.
“Defendants did not provide Plaintiffs with food and services on the same basis as similarly situated white customers,” the complaint says.
The Hillstone Restaurant Group told McClatchy News in a statement that it is aware of the lawsuit but declined to comment on the pending litigation.