A Chili’s restaurant in Abbeville, Louisiana, is at the center of a new viral video that captured police being called in response to a group of black people chatting in the parking lot after eating there.
In this particular case, a group of about a dozen people, including locals and some friends from out of town, were in the restaurant’s parking lot with their to-go boxes, apparently continuing conversations that began inside, when police pulled up.
The video, shot and posted by Laura Briggs, who was in the group, shows the police telling the group they had to move on.
The officers explained to the group that the managers wanted them gone, that the parking lot was private property and “they can decide who they do and don’t want in there.”
Story continues under video - video courtesy Laura Briggs
The explanation didn’t sit well with the group, particularly one of the men, who knew one of the officers. He was unhappy but remained calm and asked officers why they were being asked to leave. He asked if it was because “we’re black.”
The officers at no time gave a reason as to why the managers wanted the group gone, only saying that “they have the right to refuse service to anybody.” The back and forth between the group and the officers, who seemed to know some of the people in the group, remained civil for the most part. The event ended with the group taking its 'go' boxes and leaving.
“We’re just sitting out here talking to our friend, she came from Honduras,” the man said on the video. “All we’re doing is talking. My home boy in there, he came out and told me, ‘They think you’re trying to intimidate somebody.’ Why? Because we’re black and we’re talking? They just had some white ladies (out here) talking.’”
The man then said he wanted to go inside and get a number to call the corporate offices, at which time the officer said the restaurant did not want them inside.
“She called me here to avoid an altercation with you guys,” the officer said.
“Why?” he asked. “I can’t go in this public building. Why can’t I go in? Why?”
“Because we’re black people in Abbeville?” asked another man in the group.
Cheli Breaux, Chili’s Central Louisiana Director of Operations, issued a statement that did not address why the police were called but sought to downplay any controversy.
“When walking into our restaurants each day, we believe our ChiliHeads have one job and that’s to make every guest feel special while dining with us. We know and regret that the experience for some of our Chili’s Abbeville guests on Saturday, June 23 did not reflect this.
“Our focus now is to talk with our guests to better understand how they were treated at Chili’s Abbeville and learn how we can better live out our promise to ensure every guest feels welcome in our restaurants. We have reached out to the Abbeville guests for whom we have contact information and offered to sit down and discuss their experiences. While they have declined at this time, our doors are always open.
“Our restaurants can be found in communities big and small across the country, and our team members and guests come from all backgrounds. We are proud to be a meeting place in the communities where we live and serve and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind. Cultural intelligence and unconscious bias coaching sessions are part of our ongoing training for all ChiliHeads because we want to ensure every guest feels special, respected and valued in our restaurants."
Chili's said the group was given the check at 9:45 p.m. and that a guest made the request to have the group removed around 10:42 p.m. Police arrived, according to Chili's, at 10:48 p.m.
Briggs posted the video during the weekend, and it has been viewed more than 250,000 times and has been shared more than 4,000 times.
“I was a part of the group there,” she told to WWL-TV. “It was definitely quite humiliating and embarrassing.”
Jhordi Henderson, who was also in the group, took to Facebook to detail the incident, which he said was a bad experience from the moment the group was served.
“Service was horrible and food was absolutely cold,” he said in his Facebook post.
“We were racially profiled and marked as threats because we are black,” said Henderson on his Facebook page. “It’s bullsh** its 2018 and we still have to deal with ignorance. You can spend your money and chili’s if you want, but my black a** works too hard to give chili’s another dollar after being treated the way I was.”
A corporate spokesperson said Chili's values each customer and that they have reached out to the group, who she described as 'regulars' to see how to make it right.