Did Georgia tavern exhibit race bias -- or Southern manners?
Two successful African-American men walk into a tavern in Atlanta's swank Buckhead district, and take two seats at the bar.
The place is crowded, and eventually a situation arises: There are two white women, standing. In such cases, the tavern's policy is, apparently, to tell any men at the bar to give up their seats for the standing women.
The men refuse.
Consider that moment from August 2006, and consider the layers of Southern history -- the segregated lunch counters, the sit-ins, the ensuing decades of mistrust mingled with healing -- that must have impinged upon it.
Now you're in Flannery O'Connor territory. William Faulkner territory.
The two men, former NBA star Joe Barry Carroll and attorney Joseph Shaw, were escorted from the establishment, the Tavern at Phipps, by a security guard. This week, a jury is hearing their federal civil-rights lawsuit in which they say they were kicked out because they were black.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Steve Visser, reporting from the courtroom, writes that David Long-Daniels, the restaurant's attorney, asserted that the men evoked their professional status in refusing to give up their seats. The lawyer said no other men were sitting at their section of the bar.
"In the end, it is just about good manners," Long-Daniels told the jury.
Jeffrey Bramlett, an attorney for Carroll and Shaw, argued that the restaurant was worried that the restaurant clientele would become too black, and eventually attract a "thug" element.
During testimony, Bramlett asked Greg Greenbaum, CEO of the Tavern Corp., if he ever made a statement to that effect to his management.
"There is no possible way I ever made that statement," Greenbaum responded, according to the paper.
The parties are due back in court today.
-- Richard Fausset in Atlanta
Photo: The Atlanta skyline. Credit: Tony Ranze / AFP