Atlanta’s Houston’s Steakhouse is looking at a simmering public relations problem, with T.I., Love & Hip-Hop Editorial Advisor and actress Yandy Smith-Harris, and Killer Mike all weighing in on what many black patrons have described as discriminatory practices at the high-profile restaurant. The issue seems to stem—at least in part—from Houston’s policy on refusing to seat large parties and a perception that this policy is only applied to black patrons.
A statement released by Houston’s noted, “Large parties of seven or more will not be split into separate groups at different tables, which means that larger groups may not be able to dine with us at certain times.”
T.I. posted a clip of himself joining in while joking about the Lenox location closing in anticipation of the protest. “They closed ma’am,” Tip said. “Ain’t no damn spinach dip today. Ain’t no Hawaiian steak today.”
Fellow protestors, such as Smith-Harris gave more specific, anecdotal reasons for their actions. "[I’ve seen] parties of seven that just didn’t look like us seated," Smith-Harris explained in the above video from the protest. “We’ve been told that we have to leave the restaurant. There was even a group of us, and we split in two. They told us, ‘We won’t seat you guys because we don’t want you screaming across the restaurant.’ That’s profiling. I don’t scream across restaurants.’”
Prominent realtor, educator, and activist Jay Morrison shared a similar video uploaded from his phone with a Houston’s staff member reportedly calling the police on him and his party after refusing to seat them.
“Houston’s is a restaurant that is supported by the black dollar in Atlanta and supported by the entertainment dollar especially,” Killer Mike noted in an Instagram video he posted during Saturday’s protests. “I just call on entertainers and other members of Atlanta who are for justice and right—black or white—and black Atlanta in particular. Not only boycott Houston’s, but find a black restaurant to support or one that treats your community well. Me personally, I haven’t been to Houston’s in three or four years.”
With the optics of Saturday’s protest/boycott not looking particularly well for Houston’s, the restaurant went on the defensive issuing a statement via Instagram.
“Charges of discrimination are not only unfounded but are an intentional manipulation using social media,” the statement read in part. “Our policies and guidelines apply equally to everyone.”