It began yesterday when Fox13 reported a police officer and high school principal had experienced racial profiling at Houston's Restaurant. The station then revealed that since that first report, other accounts of racism have poured into the station.
The previous report was from a law enforcement officer and high school principal who said they were humiliated by the restaurant after being accused of smelling like marijuana.
“I don’t plan on patronizing this establishment anymore,” said Marcus Mosby.
“She said, ‘There’s a strong odor of marijuana coming from your party in this area.’ I said, ‘Ma’am, we don’t smoke marijuana. You’re mistaken.’ She said, ‘I’ve gotten complaints. People have called and said they smell.’ I said, ‘Ma’am, no one has walked past us but you,’” said Mosby.
“You would think when I advised her of my occupation, my wife’s occupation, you would think she would reassess what she thought. She didn’t want to hear it. She said, ‘You still have to leave,’” said Mosby.
After Mosby's story was reported on the station, the station heard several other complaints from people of color who were asked to leave or made to feel uncomfortable at the Houston's Restaurant. The most notable was a former security guard who worked at Houston's for two years before he couldn't take it anymore and asked to be reassigned.
“They would come in and they would tell them that they’re booked and they wouldn’t be able to get a seat for the next four or five hours. Sometimes they would say they were booked for the whole day and then you would see white people come in and they would take them on in,” he explained, emphasizing he wanted to remain anonymous.
“And then I would see the manager tell people to , ‘just come in behind me …don’t say anything … just walk to the table with me. Don’t say anything. Just act normal like you have reservations.’ He would let white people come sit down, but he wouldn’t let black people come in,” he adds.
One customer of color, Linda Lane, said that a host asked if there were other shoes the customer could change into, saying that they banned crocks in the dining room. The customer explained she had just injured her ankle, showing the host.
“And then another waitress came and told my cousin, ‘You can’t wear a hat in the dining area.’ He said, ‘What’s the problem? I see other people wearing hats.’ She said, ‘They’re veterans.’”
The problems the steakhouse had with them only persisted from there. At one point the manager "said they were trying to keep their establishment upscale, and I said, ‘I really don’t want to stay in this establishment. I’m uncomfortable.’”
Lane emphasized her party was dressed appropriately. “We were dressed to the nines as we would say in our language because I had on a dress and they had on linen suits.”
White customers were allowed to be in violation of the Houston's dress code, however, she said.
The Hillstone Restaurant Group is the parent company of the Houston's Restaurant. Their website has a page that outlines their attire standards, explaining, "Guest attire can elevate or diminish the experience of others. We consider hats, tank tops, flip flops, and team athletic attire too casual for our restaurants. Our staff takes pride in their appearance and we ask our guests to respect our attire guidelines."
This isn't the first time a Houston's Restaurant is coming under fire either. In Oct. 2017, Atlanta rap superstars T.I. and Killer Mike called for a boycott of the steakhouse when actress Ernestine Johnson said that she and her party of seven were refused for “no sound reason." She explained that the large group was also willing to break into two other tables. The restaurant blamed Johnson saying she was "unwilling to wait" for two larger tables. They then developed a policy that large parties wouldn't be split into different tables.
According to Houston's, they were denied service after they became “aggressive to our staff and disruptive to our guests’ dining experience.”
That Houston's first opened in August 1978 and closed less than a year after the boycott was announced, in March 2018, reported Atlanta Magazine.
Hillstone issued a statement apologizing for the accusations about the Mosby's, but hasn't addressed the further accusations.
“We made a mistake in attributing marijuana odor to Mr. Mosby’s party. We immediately apologized and were pleased he and his party stayed to dine with us Saturday evening and we look forward to the privilege of serving them again in the future."
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