Black ministers claim restaurant discriminated after charging for extra lemons

Ann Knef Oct. 19, 2007, 6:11am

Lotawata Creek Restaurant in Fairview Heights

Six black ordained ministers claim a Fairview Heights restaurant discriminated against them after a member in their group was told he would have to pay for lemonade if he wanted extra lemons in his water.

According to a civil rights suit filed in St. Clair County Circuit Court, Lotawata Creek and its manager Damon Snyder violated the Human Rights Act by ordering the group to leave and for threatening to call the police on them.

Plaintiffs, who include a spouse and a minister's child, are Verdis Lee, Brittany Lee, Barnicio Cureton, Debbrecca Harris, Terrence Saddler, Lakelia Saddler, Willie Seals and Cne' Seals.

The group was participating in a working dinner meeting of a formal organization of ordained southern Illinois Christian ministers on May 8, the complaint states.

They claim the defendants' actions were intentional and outrageous and thereby humiliated, embarrassed and highly insulted them.

Represented by Stephen McGlynn of Belleville, a former appellate court judge, the plaintiffs are seeking in excess of $800,000.

The complaint states that a waitress was neglecting the ministers' table but not other customers who were white.

"When one of the patron's at Complainant's table requested extra lemons for his water, the waitress said she would have to charge him for lemonade," the suit states.

"The patron politely protested, but said he would pay the extra charge for the lemons. All the patrons of the table were then ignored and their requests to order were ignored."

The suit claims the ministers requested a different waitress, but when the request was made, "the manager on duty ordered all the African-American patrons to leave the restaurant and threatened to call the police if they did not leave immediately."

McGlynn said he has filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights.

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