A group of seven Muslim women sued Urth Caffé in Laguna Beach, California, on Monday for religious discrimination. During the incident, which occurred on April 22, the women were asked to leave according to a “busy time seating limit” enforced by the restaurant, which states, “During our busy rush times, if you have already been at a table for 45 minutes or longer, please share or give your table to someone who is waiting. If tables are available, you are certainly welcome to enjoy Urth for as long as you desire.”
A Facebook post by one of the women, Sara Farsakh, details that when they were asked to leave, a third of the seats in the restaurant were empty and their orders had just arrived. A nearby party overheard the conversation and told the group that they were not asked to leave, despite having been at the restaurant far longer than them.
“Urth Caffé's expulsion of this group of women is a throwback to the days of ‘Whites only’ signs and colored water fountains, with Muslims now being the convenient targets of discrimination," said Mohammad Tajsar, the attorney representing the women, in a statement. “Urth Caffé's attempt to whitewash its upscale clientele by using its seating policy as a justification to expel those who outwardly appear Muslim is both immoral and illegal, and should have no place in Orange County's diverse community.”
In response, the owner of the restaurant, Shallom Berkman, said “We're very sorry that [Farsakh] has this feeling that this was something racist but that is just not the case,” quotes OC Weekly.