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A Chinese restaurant in Toronto was slapped with a $10,000 fine for making a black customer prepay for his dinner, according to a new report.
Emile Wickham and three friends, who are also black, were celebrating a birthday at Hong Shing in May 2014 when the waiter told them it was the restaurant’s policy to pay for the food ahead of time, Toronto’s Globe and Mail reported.
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Wickham, 31, asked other patrons if they too had to prepay – and quickly learned the “rule” only applied to his table. When the group questioned the server, he admitted they were the only ones who prepaid and asked if they wanted a refund. The friends took their money and left.
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario found Wickham and his friends were the only black people in the restaurant at the time, according to a report issued April 18.
Esi Cojoe, vice chairwoman of the tribunal, said the restaurant treated Wickham as “a potential thief in waiting.”
“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,” Cojoe wrote in the report.
A representative from the restaurant did not attend the tribunal hearing. But the eatery sent a statement, sent six months after Wickham filed his human rights complaint, that said it “attracts something of a transient crowd” and anticipates people walking out on their checks.
It also said its prepay policy was to ensure that customers whom waiters did not recognize as regulars paid for their meal.
Wickham and his pals — who were students at York University at the time of the incident — had dined at Hong Shing at least 15 times since he was 19 years old.
Staff at Hong Shing told the Globe and Mail that they were unfamiliar with Wickham’s incident and that the restaurant now has new owners.
A photo taken from the night in question shows Wickham and his friends — and other crowded tables in the background with customers who are white and Asian.
Wickham said on Twitter that he wished he’d never had to go through the situation.
“Being asked if I’m happy about decision, tbh no, more grateful that we were heard and believed,” he wrote. “I would trade of this for the two hours of bonding taken away from us that night.”
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