COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ The NAACP on Friday sued a Myrtle Beach restaurant, claiming three black patrons were refused service during a biker rally last year in violation of their civil rights
But the owner of the Pan American Pancake & Omelet House said that his employees do not discriminate against anyone based on the color of their skin.
“I highly doubt it,'' said Constantine Leftis, 52, who emigrated to the U.S. from Greece in 1978 and has run the restaurant for 25 years. “We've been doing this for over 20-something years, and we've never had an issue.''
At around 6 a.m. on May 30, 2010, during the annual Atlantic Beach Bikefest weekend that caters to black bikers, restaurant employees told the plaintiffs that the restaurant was closed, even as they continued to serve white patrons, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said in the lawsuit.
In addition to at least $5,000 each for violation of South Carolina's public accommodations law, the court should also award each man unspecified punitive and compensatory damages for emotional harm and humiliation, attorneys wrote.
Organizers expect as many as 300,000 people for Atlantic Beach Bikefest, which gets under way this weekend. The NAACP has said Myrtle Beach enforces laws against black bikers more strictly than during the predominantly white Harley Davidson rally. It also has said it is again organizing Operation Bike Week Justice to monitor how police handle the rally in the predominantly black beach community on the Grand Strand.
Aside from having to call the police on rowdy customers several years ago, Leftis said he has never had a problem with patrons during either Atlantic Beach Bikefest or the Harley Davidson rally.
“I'm sure there are some people that may be unhappy, if they've been difficult to deal with. If they're not very happy with us, then I guess they can go someplace else.''
No hearings have been scheduled in the case.
In 2006, Greg Norman's Australian Grille agreed to pay the NAACP $100,000 to settle a lawsuit claiming the establishment closed to avoid serving blacks. The city of Myrtle Beach also settled with the NAACP over the way it handles traffic along popular Ocean Boulevard during both spring rallies.
Both lawsuits had claimed that black bikers attending the Atlantic Beach Bikefest weekend were treated differently than bikers attending the Harley Davidson rally.