Black legislator decries treatment at Md. Inn; Restaurant manager's action was racist, she says

THE BALTIMORE SUN

To the management of the Historic Inns of Annapolis, the incident in which a legislator was refused prompt service at the Maryland Inn was a mortifying lapse in customer service.

But to Del. Melony Ghee Griffith, an African-American from Prince George's County, the rude treatment she received when she brought a black constituent to lunch at the inn's Treaty of Paris restaurant Wednesday afternoon was about as subtle as if there were a "whites only" sign outside the Annapolis landmark.

By yesterday, word of the incident had spread through the House of Delegates, prompting leaders of the Prince George's County and Baltimore delegations to threaten to cease doing business with the inn and sister properties.

Such an action could have serious consequences for the Historic Inns, which do a steady business of putting on legislative functions for local governments, including Baltimore. In addition to the Maryland Inn on Main Street, where the bar is a popular destination for lawmakers and lobbyists, the properties include the Robert Johnson Inn and the Governor Calvert House on State Circle.

A block from the State House, the Maryland Inn is a popular haunt for people at the center of politics in Annapolis. Many legislators stay at the inn during the session and lunch with lobbyists at the Treaty of Paris.

By midafternoon yesterday, the inns' management was scrambling to limit the damage -- offering abject apologies while denying any intent to discriminate.

Griffith and her guest, Sherma Brisseau of Largo, ended up lunching at the nearby Potato Valley Cafe after, Griffith said, a Maryland Inn manager reproached her for arriving about 20 minutes late for a reservation. Griffith said she was late because a legislative meeting ran long.

Griffith said the manager refused to seat her and Brisseau, insisting they wait, although seven or eight tables were open. She said her treatment contrasted with that of a white couple who came in afterward without reservations. They were greeted warmly and offered a table, she said.

"Being refused to be seated with a constituent was probably the most degrading experience I have had in my life," said Griffith, who said she introduced herself as a delegate. She said it was the second incident of rude treatment she has encountered at the inn since January, leading her to suspect a racial motive was involved.

Alex Bollman, assistant general manager of the Historic Inns, said the incident was the result of an inexperienced manager being under stress because employees' illnesses had left him understaffed.

Bollman said the manager has been reprimanded, but not fired, for his treatment of Griffith.

Sun staff writers C. Fraser Smith and Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 3/05/99

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