Mostly black fraternity says business violated civil rights

A fraternity hoping to rent a restaurant pavilion for a social event says in a lawsuit that the Alabama business refused because most of its members are black.

The Tuscaloosa Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity made the allegations in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed last week against the Cypress Inn in Tuscaloosa.

The fraternity says it paid a $1,500 reservation fee in early 2017, but the plans fell through when a black fraternity member met in person with a white woman from the restaurant to finalize details.

"A comment was made by the Cypress Inn representative that she did not know the plaintiffs were an 'all black' group," the lawsuit states.

The white restaurant owner later said the establishment has had problems with their "kind" in the past, the lawsuit states. The fraternity was told it could not rent the venue due to insufficient security personnel, it said in the lawsuit.

"The allegations of discrimination are completely untrue," the Cypress Inn said in a statement to The Associated Press Tuesday.

"Our outside security firm recommended against hosting the party because the fraternity was proposing to sell tickets to the public and our security firm strongly recommended against hosting that type party out of concern for public safety."

"We look forward to presenting the complete facts to the Court," the statement said. "We are confident we will prevail."

The fraternity offered to provide added security at its own expense, but the offer was rejected, it said in the lawsuit.

"Plaintiffs even presented the Defendant with pictures of past events and stated that their membership was comprised of African-American professionals and business leaders," the lawsuit states.

The fraternity said it had already advertised and sold tickets for the event, had to refund some tickets and ended up hosting the gathering at another location. The ordeal caused the fraternity to lose some money for the event, which was a fundraiser to benefit local mentoring programs, it said in the lawsuit.