NAACP settles bias lawsuit against S.C. restaurateur

Racism alleged in decision to close during black event

April 27, 2005|By Kelly Brewington | Kelly Brewington,SUN STAFF

The NAACP announced yesterday that it has settled a federal lawsuit on behalf of eight people who accused a restaurant owner in Myrtle Beach, S.C., of refusing to open during a Memorial Day motorcycle festival attended predominantly by African-Americans.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People filed a lawsuit two years ago contending that the city and certain businesses treat the mostly black participants of the Atlantic Beach Bikefest differently from participants of the mostly white Harley Week, which also occurs in May.

"This settlement is a positive sign that all parties, consumers, advocates and businesses can work together to ensure that the rights of African-American tourists are respected and that their business is welcomed," said NAACP interim General Counsel Angela Ciccolo.

J. Edward Fleming, the owner of J. Edward's Great Ribs and More, had denied that the decision to close the restaurant was based on race. In the settlement, he agreed to open all days during the event and post a "Welcome Bikers" sign at the restaurant's entrance.

The amount of the settlement was not disclosed. Lawsuits against several other Myrtle Beach restaurants are pending.

In February, the civil rights group requested a federal injunction to stop the city from using a traffic plan this Memorial Day weekend it says discriminates against blacks.

A federal judge in South Carolina heard arguments from NAACP attorneys Monday but did not rule. The plan restricts weekend traffic to one-way instead of two-way, and is not used during Harley Week or any other time of year. The city has said the issue is not race, but that the events are distinct and require different traffic patterns.

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