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Black couple files lawsuit against Houston's in East Memphis, claiming racial discrimination by White manager

The couple said in August 2022, they were kicked out of the restaurant because the manager said they "smelled like weed."

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Mississippi couple has filed a lawsuit against a popular East Memphis restaurant, claiming they racial discrimination after the managers refused to serve them.

The couple is suing Houston's on Poplar and Mendenhall, Hillstone Restaurant Group, which owns Houston’s, and the general manager and manager.

The couple, who are African American, claim in the lawsuit that on Aug. 7, 2022, they went to the restaurant to meet family who were already seated. They sat down, and claim a White manager, named in the lawsuit, walked by, then returned. According to the lawsuit, the manager returned to the table and told them to leave “because they smelled like weed.”

The lawsuit said the couple did not react because they thought she was talking to someone else “because they knew they did not smell like weed.”

The couple said in the lawsuit that the manager returned with a lawsuit and said, “I asked you to leave and come back tomorrow because you smell like weed.”

The lawsuit said the couple was escorted out of the restaurant and claims a second officer told them the manager “regularly interacted this way towards Black patrons.”

The lawsuit said, “At no time were the Plaintiffs exhibiting any foul body odor or aroma exhibiting an illegal substance, nor were they loud and/or disorderly within the restaurant.”

The suit said the incident caused public embarrassment and humiliation for the couple, and they are asking for $500,000 each. The lawsuit also asks that the court order and injunction against the restaurant to prevent future discrimination and to take steps to prevent racial profiling in the future.

Hillstone Restaurant Group sent the following statement to ABC24, "Hillstone Restaurant Group, Inc., which owns and operates the Houston’s Restaurant on Poplar Avenue in Memphis, has received notice of the lawsuit arising from an August 2022 incident. While we do not comment on pending litigation, our Company does not discriminate as anyone who has ever dined at our restaurant can attest. We are proud guests of all races choose to dine regularly at Houston’s and appreciate our hospitality."

Read the full lawsuit HERE. 

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