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News / Clark County News

Man files lawsuit against Elmer’s

He claims he was discriminated against based on race

By Jessica Prokop, Columbian Local News Editor
Published: October 28, 2015, 7:18pm

An African-American man has filed a $100,000 discrimination suit against the Elmer’s restaurant chain after a Vancouver eatery allegedly told him he’d have to prepay for his meal. White customers who were dining nearby, however, were not asked to do the same, he says.

Brian Eason filed the complaint Tuesday against Karsan, Inc., which owns and operates that Elmer’s location, and parent corporation Elmer’s Restaurants. The suit also lists Sandra Lewis, co-owner, president, chairwoman and director of Karsan.

Eason had gone to the Elmer’s at 7105 N.E. 40th St. on Dec. 16 to find a quiet place to eat and write Christmas cards, according to the suit filed in Multnomah County (Ore.) Circuit Court. Eason is a real estate agent and deputy with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office. He chose to eat at the Vancouver restaurant because his realty office is nearby, the lawsuit said.

A waitress took his order but demanded he prepay for his meal. When Eason asked why, the waitress said the owner had instructed her to ask for the prepayment, the suit said. The waitress was apologetic and acknowledged that the policy was racist, the complaint said, but she continued to insist Eason prepay. He complied.

Eason told The Oregonian/OregonLive on Wednesday that he returned to the restaurant 30 minutes after leaving, approached a table where two white people were dining and asked whether they had been required to prepay for their meals. He said they hadn’t.

Eason is seeking $100,000 in damages after suffering a “loss of sleep and feelings of racial stigmatization” stemming from the alleged incident. The Oregonian/OregonLive also reported that an Elmer’s representative said she could not comment on the pending litigation, but was “actively looking” into what occurred.

“At Elmer’s, we are proud to provide a welcoming Guest experience to everyone in the communities we serve,” Jill Ramos, the chain’s director of restaurant support, wrote to The Oregonian/OregonLive. “We are disappointed to hear about the complaint which occurred at one of our franchise-operated restaurants.”

Eason is being represented by the Portland-based law firm Kafoury & McDougal.

Elmer’s was founded in 1960 in Portland by Walt and Dorothy Elmer under its original name, Elmer’s Colonial Pancake House, according to the chain’s website. The business has 25 restaurants in four states.