GOSPEL group sues restaurant for alleged discrimination

Thursday, May 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MONROE, N.C. (AP) _ Five members of a black gospel group sued a Waffle House restaurant, saying they were told to give up their seats to white customers.

In a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday in Charlotte, the singers said the restaurant's operator, Hillcrest Foods, violated their civil rights.

The suit is the second this month claiming discrimination by Hillcrest Foods at its North Carolina restaurants.

Hillcrest Foods declined to comment.

The Heavenly Sons said they stopped for a meal in Monroe, about 25 miles southeast of Charlotte, on Feb. 11 and placed takeout orders.

While seated at the counter, the men changed their minds and told their waitress they would be eating inside, the lawsuit said. A few moments later, a security guard told them to stand up to make room for white patrons who had just arrived, the suit said.

As they left the restaurant, the security guard taunted them, they said. Singer Jerome Monk said he felt as if ``I had been stripped of everything I had been taught.''

The group's lawsuit seeks more than $10,000.

The singers have obtained the services of a Washington, D.C.-based group called the Washington Lawyers Committee, which specializes in civil rights law. In 1994, the committee won a $17.5 million settlement against Denny's restaurants in a case alleging discrimination against more than 100,000 black patrons.

Hillcrest was also sued May 14 by two black women who said they were denied service at a Waffle House in Charlotte in 1998.

``I never thought I would have to encounter this,'' plaintiff Lisa Lea said. ``I thought this battle had been fought, but obviously it needs attention.''