Saturday, September 02, 2000

Black group to boycott restaurants

Closings during Coors Light Festival caused ire

By Allen Howard
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A group known as the Black United Front is planning to boycott downtown restaurants that closed during the Coors Light Festival in July.

        The Rev. Damon Lynch III, leader of the group, said they are calling the action a sanction. He said the sanctioning will take place Sept. 9, the weekend of the Riverfront Classic, a predominantly black event.

        “We are taking this action because these restaurants chose to close their doors rather than serve black patrons,” he said. “We have not selected which restaurant will be a target of direct action, such as a picket demonstration.”

        He said the Black United Front is made up of local black leaders, ministers and ordinary people. “At a planning meeting last Wednesday at my church, more than 250 people attended.”

        The Rev. Mr. Lynch is pastor of the New Prospect Baptist Church, 1829 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine.

        At least one restaurant owner was upset by news of the protest. Nat Comisar, co- owner of the Maisonette and La Normandie, both in the 100 block of Sixth Street, said they have been closing during the month of July for 32 years.

        He said 95 percent of his business utilizes valet parking, but during the festival, the customers can't get to the front door.

        “It is strange that we get criticized when we closed during the festival, but didn't get any praise for being open during the Black Family Reunion,” Mr. Comisar said.

        A restaurant co-owner whose facility did stay open said a boycott is not the way to go.

        “We were open and we didn't get much business,” said Ralph Shepard, co-owner of Cafe Cin-Cin, 15 West Sixth St.

        “I think they should be doing something positive, like supporting the businesses that do stay open,” he said.

        An official with the U.S. Department of Justice came to Cincinnati last week and met with both sides.

        “I was there to mediate the issue,” said Pat Glenn, senior mediator of the Community Relations Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. “I think it will be settled when the people want it to be settled.”

        She plans to return to Cincinnati next week for a meeting with restaurant owners and the Black United Front.


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