Denny's in Anne Arundel and Va. accused of bias Food tainted, says Glen Burnie black

June 05, 1993|By Jeff Leeds | Jeff Leeds,Staff Writer

Already battered by a recent spate of discrimination charges, a Denny's restaurant in Anne Arundel County was accused yesterday of serving food containing a cigarette butt to a Glen Burnie man.

The racial complaint against the Pasadena restaurant -- the second against the chain in Anne Arundel County -- came at the same time the chain was accused of refusing service to an all-black children's choir in two Northern Virginia restaurants last weekend.

Germaine Calloway, 21, who is black, and four friends went to the Denny's in Pasadena for an after-prom breakfast May 23. He said he was served a cigarette butt in his hash browns.

"They denied it at first. Then I showed it to everybody," he said at a news conference yesterday called by the Anne Arundel County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "I was so upset, I created a commotion."

He filed the complaint with Jean Creek, president of the Anne Arundel County NAACP, who said the incident followed a pattern of mistreatment of blacks at Denny's restaurants.

"There is something systemically wrong in the company," she said.

Ms. Creek said the complaint would be part of a national review NAACP is doing of the restaurant chain.

Officials at Denny's in Pasadena and at the chain's parent corporation, TW Services Inc. of Spartanburg, S.C., had not heard of Mr. Calloway's complaint.

"I'll have to look into it," said Pat Leeper, manager of the Denny's in Pasadena.

In the Virginia incident, TW Services Inc. denied turning away 125 members of the Martin Luther King Children's Choir. The company said that its two restaurants were understaffed and that both managers warned the choir director that it could take a long time to serve dinner to the entire group.

But the choir's executive officer, Anita High, tells a different story.

Three buses carrying 125 members of the Raleigh, N.C., choir, ranging in age from 4 to 18, arrived at a Denny's restaurant outside Dale City, Va., around 11 p.m. Sunday, Ms. High said. When choir leaders went inside, the restaurant manager told them that he was understaffed and directed them to a larger Denny's nearby.

When the choir members arrived at the Woodbridge, Va., restaurant about 30 minutes later, the manager met the buses in the parking lot and told them the same thing they had heard at the first restaurant, Ms. High said.

Denny's "made no attempt to serve us," said Ms. High, whose choir has filed a discrimination complaint in North Carolina but may pursue other legal action. When the manager of the second Denny's met the buses in the parking lot, "it was as if he didn't even want us inside his restaurant."

The choir leaders decided not to tell the children they suspected the manager refused to serve them because they were black.

"You don't tell a child that," Ms. High said. "We didn't want to poison their minds."

The company, however, says the manager of the second Denny's told the choir that he could seat only half the children and urged the others to eat at other area restaurants.

"The manager went inside to begin preparing for the group and noticed the buses left after a few minutes without contacting him," the company said.

Black patrons from California and Maryland have launched legal action against Denny's.

Most recently, six black Secret Service agents who say they were victims of discrimination in a Denny's in the Annapolis area filed a lawsuit against the chain and TW Services last month. The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson is set to participate in "informational picketing" outside the Annapolis Denny's today.

A week ago, TW Services announced an agreement with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to improve race relations in the company's restaurants nationwide.

In the most recent incident, the North Carolina choir leaders filed a complaint with the North Carolina Human Relations Commission, but it is unclear whether the agency has jurisdiction, because the incident occurred in Virginia. Choir leaders met last night with NAACP officials, a representative of the North Carolina Human Relations Commission and the lawyers representing the Secret Service agents to decide whether to take other legal action.

xTC Jerry Richardson, the chief executive officer of TW Services, who is trying to attract a National Football League expansion team to Charlotte, N.C., was to meet with Mr. Jackson in Washington this week but canceled, said a spokesman for the Jackson organization, the National Rainbow Coalition.

The spokesman, Frank Watkins, denied reports that Mr. Jackson was at odds with the NAACP's executive director, Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., over how to handle the Denny's company, which signed a consent agreement April 1 not to discriminate in California.

Ms. High said she was "very familiar" with the charges against Denny's but chose to stop there anyway because she wanted to feed "a group of hungry, disgruntled people who were even more disgruntled after the way we were treated."

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