Rapper T.I. leads protest against Atlanta restaurant
ATLANTA - Rapper T.I. was joined by Atlanta television personalities Ernestine Johnson and Jay Morrison, calling Friday night at two Atlanta locations for a boycott of restaurant chain Houston's over allegations of mistreatment of African American customers.
The group of several dozen protesters marched from the Houston's on Peachtree Road to the location on Lenox Road.
The restaurant, however, maintains that a recent ordeal between Johnson, Morrison, and guests at a restaurant was a misunderstanding over the seating policy for large groups. A lengthy statement of the management's explanation of the ordeal is outlined further in this article.
Johnson's tweet over an alleged October 6 incident at the Lenox Road location set off a media firestorm, and ignited discussions among other Atlanta-based entertainers over concerns of discrimination against African American customers and experiences from other entertainers.
"I felt completely disrespected. There was a lack of regard for our presence and our dollars at that location. I felt discriminated against," Johnson said, who told FOX 5 News her group of seven arrived at Houston's hoping to be seated as a group, but was told the restaurant could not accommodate the group of that size.
"Friday we came in for a late lunch, as a party of seven. [The hostess said] we don't seat seven and we don't seat large parties," Johnson said, then volunteering to the hostess to split the parties into two tables.
"She says, 'We still can't do that-- we still can't seat you,'" Johnson said, "It was ridiculous. It was very bizarre-- why we couldn't be sat as a party of four, with no sound reason."
"They refused to let us be sat as a party of four and had no real policy behind it. I think they wanted to choose who they sat that day and it wasn't us," said Morrison, who explained that his group was then asked to leave the location.
"It was a power trip... and we don't believe that's the treatment they give everybody," he said. Morrison said a wait list was never offered as an option to the party, but management claimed in the statement sent to FOX 5 News that they offered the option.
A social media post by Johnson sparked the interest of T.I., who claimed his wife and other African American patrons have been excessively scrutinized as guests because of clothing or other issues, while other patrons have no problems.
"We are tired of being treated unfairly when we come here... There isn't this one case and one incident alone that would warrant this type of response," T.I. said. "If the policy is only enforced when you feel like it with a certain group of people... that is discriminatory."
Hillstone Restaurant Group, when asked by FOX 5, would not comment on any other allegations by T.I. or other celebrities, but released the following lengthy statement on the Oct. 6 incident:
Johnson, Morrison, and the various parties said they planned to meet with Houston's management after the Friday night protest.