The Oral Report

Standing up in front of the class was never so much fun!

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Location: River City, United States

The rantings and ravings of a mom of three wonderful girls as she finds new love while working like a dog and shaking her fist at the system. You know. Pretty much like everybody else.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

First Right of Refusal

The funny hats have been put back in the top of the closets.

The hangovers are at bay.

The celebrities have gone back to wherever it is from whence they came.

All that's left now is the cleanup. Well, that and...a few stories...

A local restaurateur is making national news because he refused service to a visiting celebrity last week. His conscious would not allow him to countenance O.J. Simpson's presence in his steakhouse.

Given O.J.'s celebrity, the incident likely would have garnered press anyway, but the controversy seems to stem from the restaurant owner's "right" to refuse service to anyone.

Just for a moment, let's put aside the fact that Simpson is black. Does a private businessman have a right to refuse his product, or services, to anyone? Not does it make good "business sense", but is it legal?

Is it the same as the black man trying to gain entrance to the all white country club? Or as the first woman enrolling at WestPoint? Because O.J.'s lawyer is insisting that he was refused service because of racial discrimination.

This strikes me as ludicrous.

First, I can't imagine this is the first time, since he murdered people, that O.J.'s been refused service. Second, black customers regularly patronize this restaurant. So, racial discrimination just doesn't seem, to me, to apply. Third, even our local "Al Sharpton", the Reverend Louis Coleman, isn't coming to the aid of the alleged victim. Leading me to believe that even men of color see him as a pariah.

This is not the utility company telling him that they won't give him power. This is not the mailman refusing to deliver his mail. There are PLENTY of restaurants in River City, and I have no doubt that O.J. found something to eat, elsewhere, that night. What if he didn't, though? What if every other eatery shunned him? Do restaurants have an obligation to feed a paying customer? EVERY paying customer? Regardless of how uncomfortable that makes the restaurant's owner, or even other clientele?

I'm reminded of the scene in THE BLUES BROTHERS, where Jake and Elwood occupy a table at an upscale restaurant and "threaten" to come there to eat every night. They're obviously harassing the staff and other patrons. Had they been refused service, could they have sued the restaurant owner?

I recognize that that particular analogy isn't precise. Jake and Elwood were actively causing a "scene". From all accounts of the incident, O.J. was not, at any time he was at the steakhouse, behaving in an untoward fashion. The owner simply had moral issues with his past behaviors, and how O.J. had worked the system, and society, to get away with murder.

Oh, believe you me, I've got no use for O.J. Simpson and find him completely reprehensible. The thought of him truly sickens me, and I don't blame the restaurant owner one bit for feeling the way he did...or even for refusing O.J. service.


Where does this lead? Can he also refuse service to his ex-wife, because she cheated on him? How about the basketball coach of our local team's rival? Or a corrupt politician? Can the produce vendor refuse delivery to the restaurant because of that? Maybe the answer is "yes". "Yes", as a business-owner you can serve, or not serve, anyone you please. But it seems, to me, to be a much stickier question than that.

Of course we all make moral judgments of the world around us, but are we entitled to act upon those personal judgments? Do pharmacists have the right to refuse to dispense medicines based on their moral issues with it? See, I don't think so. I think they've elected to work in a profession and the guidelines of that profession obligate them to dispense legal medications as prescribed by physicians.

Yes, you can go elsewhere if someone refuses you service, but should you have to? So, while I'm privately applauding our local restaurateur, I'm also a little concerned. And wondering how the ACLU would respond.

P.S. - I NEVER thought I'd be giving this much space to O.J. Simpson. Believe me. Never.


Anonymous said...

I own a mom & pop video store. I have per the local police the right to refuse service to anyone.
I have only done so once. Because the cust. smelled so badly that I vomited in the wastepaper can.
When he left the building the other customers cheered.
And then we sprayed Lysol.

5/09/2007 8:18 PM  
Blogger AaA said...

Well, if my opinion means anything, then put your mind at ease. I not only believe the restaraunteur had a right to refuse service to OJ, but also the moral duty to do so.

And, as you've already noted, race is not the issue here, it's that OJ is a murderer who beat the system. If the system can't punish him, the bare minimum the society it was designed to protect from predators like him can do is shun his scrofulous ass.

5/10/2007 4:23 PM  

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