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Maryland senator: ‘no place for Atlas Restaurant Group in Baltimore’ | COMMENTARY

Jeremey Williams protests outside of Ouzo Bay a day after a viral video that showed a Black family being refused service by management. June 24, 2020
Jeremey Williams protests outside of Ouzo Bay a day after a viral video that showed a Black family being refused service by management. June 24, 2020 (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)

As a child, I awakened some mornings to news that police had arrested my father, Walter P. Carter, for sitting in protest in restaurants and apartment buildings that refused to serve and house Black people.

Even after the passage of laws ending legal segregation, a fair number of private, white-owned establishments in Maryland and Baltimore City still refused to treat Black people equally under the law. After my father’s death in the summer of 1971, not long after my seventh birthday, I was taken to Gwynn Oak Amusement Park to ride the double ring Ferris wheel, even though I was too young. I was taken there as a tribute to my father’s relentless efforts to force the owners to admit Black people. Following that experience, I do not recall being denied entrance any place except Studio 54 in New York City, but I suspect that denial was more likely based on my youth and non-celebrity status or connections, than my race.

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In recent years, I have patronized restaurants owned by the Atlas Restaurant Group and I have witnessed racial discrimination firsthand at both The Bygone and the Loch Bar, both of which are located in Harbor East.

On Aug. 31, 2018, having made advance dinner reservations, and braving severe storms, street flooding and detours to make our way downtown, my well-dressed party of seven was denied entrance to The Bygone because one member of our party was wearing designer sneakers with his casually chic ensemble. After a futile attempt to argue the point, and recognizing multiple patrons dressed substantially less formally than any member of our party, we left.

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Last summer, I was seated on the patio at the Loch Bar, which I used to frequent somewhat regularly. I watched younger Black patrons being turned away when there were plenty of available tables and seats outside. I listened as the bouncers turned a woman away for being too scantily clad (never ever heard of that one before), and a young man had on “athletic wear.” This was outside, by the water! I complained about what I witnessed within my party and to the bouncers (gatekeepers), but I regret that I did not lodge a complaint with the management.

On Oct. 15, after leaving a panel discussion hosted by former Ravens players on police reform, I met several other panel participants at The Bygone for post-panel drinks. We arrived separately, and once we were all seated in the bar area, and after having ordered, a manager came over to our table and said two in our party would have to leave for wearing jeans. I argued that they had not been stopped at the door, that we had already ordered and pointed out other patrons wearing jeans and athletic looking attire. Nonetheless, members of our party were asked to leave. We all left.

Given these experiences, and having witnessed the video of the manager at Ouzo Bay racially discriminating against a Black child, denying him admittance using the pretext of his wearing “athletic attire,” I have concluded with a clear conscience that there is no place for Atlas Restaurant Group in Baltimore City. No apologies needed. None accepted. My response, as my father’s would have been, is that I will never spend one more penny at any of them again. I will dedicate myself to boycotting Atlas-owned restaurants and encourage others to do the same until they are no longer conducting business in Baltimore City. This is our city. This is our parents’ city. This is our children’s city. No racists welcomed, and none allowed. #CancelAtlas.

Jill P. Carter (Jill.carter@senate.state.md.us) is a state senator representing District 41.

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