Toronto restaurant fined $10,000 after asking black customers to prepay for food

A restaurant in Canada was ordered to pay $10,000 for violating the human rights code after requiring a group of black patrons to pay for their meal up front.

The incident occurred in May 2014 at Hong Shing, a Chinese restaurant in Toronto. Emile Wickham and his friends were at the restaurant for a birthday celebration when the server informed them they would need to pay for their food before receiving it because of restaurant policy, The Globe and Mail reports.

Emile Wickham and his friends were at the restaurant for a birthday celebration when the server informed them they would need to pay for their food before receiving it because of restaurant policy

Emile Wickham and his friends were at the restaurant for a birthday celebration when the server informed them they would need to pay for their food before receiving it because of restaurant policy (Emile Wickham)

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Realizing his group were the only black people in the restaurant, Wickham reportedly asked the other diners if they had to pay for their food up front and they all said no. He later questioned the server, who admitted they’d been the only ones asked to do so.

In the hearing, adjudicator [or arbitrator] Esi Codjoe ruled that Hong Shing had violated section one of the province’s human rights code, “which guarantees equal treatment when accessing goods, services and facilities,” by treating Wickham as “a potential thief in waiting,” according to The Globe and Mail.

“His mere presence as a black man in a restaurant was presumed to be sufficient evidence of his presumed propensity to engage in criminal behavior,” Codjoe said, per The Globe and Mail.

While representatives for the restaurant were absent from the hearing, in November 2015, six months after Wickham filed the human rights complaint, the restaurant’s lawyer said the establishment “attracts something of a transient crowd” and had adopted the policy for customers they didn’t recognize as regulars in order to avoid dine-and-dashing.

However, Codjoe said there was no evidence such policy existed.

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In a similar case of alleged racial profiling, an IHOP in Maine recently apologized after a server asked a group of black teenagers to prepay for their meal.

The restaurant wrote a public apology posted to Facebook, saying the server had taken it upon herself to ask the patrons to prepay and her actions did not reflect the company’s policy.