Alton man files racial discrimination suit against bar owner

Steve Gonzalez Nov. 9, 2004, 6:25am

Charles Jordan of Alton filed a racial discrimination suit in Madison County Circuit Court Monday claiming that bar owner Van "Mac" Lenhardt refused to serve him at Mac's Timeout bar located at 317 Belle St. in Alton.

Jordan held a press conference Monday at the Alton City Cemetery in front of the Elijah P. Lovejoy monument with his attorney Thomas Gibbons of Edwardsville, accusing Lenhart of violating the Illinois Human Rights Act. The statute makes it unlawful for a proprietor of a public facility to deny a customer services, based on racial discrimination.

According to the complaint, when Jordan visited Mac’s Timeout on or about June 5, Lenhardt refused to serve him and ejected him from the bar.

“Nigger, get out of my bar,” Lenhardt shouted at Jordan "in a voice that could be heard throughout the premises," according to the complaint.

The complaint also alleges that Lenhardt repeatedly used the racial epithet and taunted him while following Jordan out of the bar onto the sidewalk.

Jordan's suit, which was filed on the birthdate of Lovejoy--an Alton abolitionist and newspaper editor, claims that as a result of the discrimination and intentional infliction of emotional distress, he has suffered damages in an amount yet to be determined. Jordan is also seeking punitive damages in a sum sufficient to penalize Lenhardt's actions.

His actions were of such open and obvious character as to leave no doubt that they were intended to harm and degrade him in the presence of his female companion and all other patrons and employees of the bar and general public on the sidewalk, according to Jordan's complaint.

The severity of the incident and the potential harm to public welfare may necessitate the entry of a permanent injunction and other remedial measures to ensure future compliance with the Illinois Human Rights Act and to prevent further harm to Jordan and other members of the public, the complaint also states.

The Illinois Human Rights Act in part states:

“Civil Rights Violations: Public Accommodations. It is a civil rights violation for any person on the basis of unlawful discrimination to: (A) Enjoyment of Facilities. Deny or refuse to another the full and equal enjoyment of the facilities and services of any public place of accommodation. (775 ILCS 5/5-102 (a))

The act defines unlawful discrimination as follows:

“Unlawful discrimination means discrimination against a person because of his or her race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, marital status, handicap, military status, or unfavorable discharge from military service as those terms are defined in this section.

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