A high-end French Bistro, Bagatelle in New York City’s Meatpacking District faces a federal lawsuit over racial discrimination of customers, including the use of code words to determine where people would be seated, according to ATTN:.
The lawsuit — which was filed on Dec. 16 by servers Renato Barreto and David Kant — claims that employees used codewords for when certain minority groups showed up to the restaurant. “For example, ‘DNA’ was code for ‘Do Not Accommodate,’ which upon information and belief, was specifically for minorities so that they could be placed at the back of the restaurant where they would not be seen, or simply have their reservations canceled because of the color of their skin,” the complaint claims.
The report also alleges that customers were marked as “BO” if employees “believed [them] to be ugly or unfit.” According to the New York Post, code words determined where customers would be seated. For instance, some were seated at “cramped tables out of sight” where customers were sometimes seated two per chair, and one table was referred to as the “Ghetto Station.”
Barreto and Kant alleged that their former manager Laurent Nicoud “forced the plaintiffs and hosts of Bagatelle to use code words in order to cover up the repugnant and unlawful discrimination.”
Barreto, who is still a Bagatelle server and has worked at the bistro since 2012 told the Post, “When you see African-Americans walking through the front door, we knew where they would sit. They would make them wait and wait and wait.”
He alleged that the discrimination felt by patrons was also felt by servers, noting that French waiters were treated better. The lawsuit claimed that both Barreto and Kant were sexually harassed by French servers who would “rub their genitals on the plaintiffs” and called them “faggots and pedophiles,” according to the report.
The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Paul Liggieri said, “Bagatelle gave true meaning to the French word ‘bourgeoisie,’ where French servers were superior to the non-French peasants.”