Sunday, September 10, 2000

Restaurant pickets: 'No truce'

Blacks protesters say they are out to make a point

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Protest organizers said any perceived truce between downtown restaurant owners and the city's black community is non-existent, evidenced by their picketing of several establishments this weekend.

        “We weren't involved in those conversations that took place after the festival (Coors Light Festival and Ujima Cinci-Bration July 28-29), and we aren't satisfied,” said the Rev. Damon Lynch III, pastor of New Prospect Baptist Church and an organizer of the grass-roots group Black United Front.

        “There is no truce ... this is an ongoing dialogue,” he said. “We hope this makes everyone sit down and figure out how to do a better job of welcoming our guests from all races and economic backgrounds.”

        About 15-20 protesters wearing yellow T-shirts carrying signs and bullhorns paraded around Redfish Seafood Kitchen on Race Street during the lunch hour Saturday.

        Protesters also picketed Nicholson's on Walnut Street during the dinner rush Saturday, hoping to remind those downtown that some restaurants did not stay open dur ing the festivals, which were geared toward a black audience, on July 28-29.

        “We are extremely disappointed to be included in the picketing as we were open until 9 p.m. every night during the weekend in question,” said Redfish general manager John Gaines on Saturday.

        Mr. Gaines and the Rev. Mr. Lynch both characterized the protests as peaceful, with the Rev. Mr. Lynch saying demonstrators were “out to make a point and not disrupt business.”

        Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse and the Maisonette received similar treatment during dinner and lunch, respectively, on Friday.

        Jason Druso, manager at Jeff Ruby's, said about a doz en protesters used a bullhorn to shout into the building and to those entering the restaurant.

        “They were saying things that weren't true about our guests and our establishment, like we have roaches in our mashed potatoes or that we spit in our food,” Mr. Druso said. “I wouldn't call it peaceful.”

        Mr. Druso said that it was up to Mr. Ruby to make any change in policy for next year. Mr. Ruby was unavailable for comment.

        The Rev. Mr. Lynch said organizers also were handing out flyers Saturday at Cinergy Field to tell those in town for the River Front Classic and Jamboree black college football game which restaurants stayed open during Ujima.


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