By Philip H. Farfel
I am compelled to write this as a lifelong resident of Baltimore City who has been engaged in civil rights advocacy for 50 years. Recent revelations of countless acts of apparent discrimination by the Atlas Restaurant Group, Inc., obligate the Baltimore City Community Relations Commission (CRC) to investigate. Article 4, of the Baltimore City Code, created the CRC with “responsibility for the elimination of discrimination in all areas of community life…” To carry out this mission, Article 4 states:
“The Commission is authorized to and shall conduct investigations and studies and hold public hearings for the purpose of determining the existence of problems, practices, or conditions in the areas placed under its jurisdiction by this or any other ordinance or by State or Federal law.”
Following the release of the June 23 video showing 9-year-old Dallas Greene being refused service at Ouzo Bay, a slew of additional allegations of similar situations at Atlas’ other restaurants have surfaced from State Senator Jill P. Carter, former NFL player Jason Murphy, author D. Watkins, and former employees. (See “Maryland senator: no place for Atlas Restaurant Group in Baltimore”, Baltimore Sun, June 26, 2020, and “Atlas Patrons, former employees say racial incidents at Baltimore restaurant groups are not isolated,” Baltimore Sun, July 5, 2020).
The incidents recounted by these Baltimoreans are similar. Service was denied, under the pretext of a dress code violation, while other people, white people, similarly dressed were served without hesitation. These incidents occurred at multiple Atlas owned restaurants, including: LochBar, the Bygone, and the Elk Room, notwithstanding controversy just last year at the Choptank, due to allegations of racism in the imposition of its dress code upon its opening.
The remedy does not lie in the elimination of dress codes altogether, but rather in enforcing anti-discrimination laws under local, state, and federal statues, as well as the US constitution. Article 4, § 3-2. Public accommodations states clearly:
“It is an unlawful practice for any person, including any owner, lessee, proprietor, superintendent, manager, agent, or employee of a place of public accommodation, resort, or amusement to:
- discriminate against any person by directly or indirectly withholding from or denying to such person any of the services, advantages, facilities, or privileges offered by such place of public accommodation, resort, or amusement;”
The CRC has a statutory duty to Baltimore City to seize this moment to hold public hearings and conduct a thorough investigation into discrimination in public accommodations throughout the City of Baltimore. Eliminating discrimination is a mandate, not an option. Promoting fairness and equity must be our driver if we are to move forward to an inclusive and prosperous city.
Phillip H. Farfel, ScD
Dr. Farfel serves as a member of the Baltimore City Community Relations Commission and formerly served as the President of the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners.
The opinions on this page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the AFRO. Send letters to The Afro-American • 1531 S. Edgewood St. Baltimore, MD 21227 or fax to 1-877-570-9297 or e-mail to email@example.com