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Lawyer accuses IHOP of racial discrimination

Upper Marlboro solo practitioner Jimmy Bell usually files documents alleging discrimination and harassment on behalf of of his clients, such as the lawsuit earlier this week by the lone female police officer in Morningside.

But Bell recently filed a complaint with the Prince George’s County Human Relations Commission for discrimination he allegedly experienced at an IHOP in Capitol Heights.

Bell, who is black, entered the restaurant just after 10 p.m. on March 12 “to get a big steak omelet, a stack of pancakes with extra butter, melted, with some hash browns, a large milk and an orange juice,” he wrote in a letter to the Human Relations Commission, which he provided to me.

The restaurant closed at 11 p.m. and other people were being served at tables. But, after a five-minute wait, Bell was approached by a “light-skinned manager” who said Bell could only get carryout.

After arguing for a few minutes, Bell asked the manager for his name, the reason he denied Bell service and the name of his supervisor.

As the manager was leaving the area, he said, “You darkies always trying to get over on something,” according to Bell’s account.

Bell, in an interview, called the encounter “extremely painful” and compared it to African Americans being denied service at lunch counters in the South.

“I asked the IHOP regional manager, ‘What’s worse: being called a ‘darky’ or being treated like one?'” Bell said. “And he couldn’t answer.”

Bell said the regional manager offered him coupons for a free meal, which he declined.

“What I want,” Bell said, “is for IHOP to enter into a binding agreement with the Prince George’s County Human Relations Commission that they won’t engage in this type of behavior because obviously they are not policing themselves.”

Craig Hoffman, a spokesman for Glendale, California-based IHOP, said he could not comment on Bell’s accusations because the franchisee has not received any paperwork from the commission about the incident.