The Ohio University African Students Union accused Thai Paradise of being discriminatory after a group of their members went there for lunch.
The union posted on Facebook Nov. 5 about the treatment of some of their members during a visit to the restaurant.
“Restaurants in Athens, Ohio should be safe spaces, where students, regardless of their gender, race, national origin, sexual orientation, and religious beliefs, should feel welcomed and appreciated,” the Facebook post read. “A restaurant should not be a place of racism and discrimination.”
Linda Konadu Tuah, a graduate student studying international development, was with the group who attended Thai Paradise Oct. 30.
“We just wanted to … get together and say goodbye to a friend,” Tuah said.
The group arrived without a reservation, Dorcas Anima Donkor, a graduate student studying media arts and studies, said. She initially told Thai Paradise that she would have a party of six coming, corrected it to eight and said the group then waited 15 to 20 minutes to be seated.
Rasamy Lukay, general manager of Thai Paradise, said the group started out very small but increased.
“So the group that came in, it started out with a very, very small group … All of a sudden, it got bigger and then it got bigger,” Lukay said.
Lukay said the group requested to put two tables together, but this resulted in blocking the walkway and was a fire safety.
Donkor said that after being seated, the group didn’t receive service for another 15 to 20 minutes.
When Lukay saw a ninth member join the group, she requested that they didn’t join the group, as it was a fire hazard for the restaurant, she said.
“They just weren't very happy with how we just won't let them, and now we were becoming pretty frustrated,” Lukay said. “We've been so patient ... so they asked to speak to a manager.”
Lukay, who was currently serving them at that time, was the manager.
“(Lukay) came just like ‘You people, your people, your stuff, just how you want it; you people, every time you come, you come in your numbers.’ We were very confused. We didn't really understand what she was doing,” Donkor said.
Lukay said she could’ve been referring to any group of people with those phrases.
“So I said to them, and it doesn't matter if you use 'Oh my God, those people,’ Lukay said. “I could talk about anybody, whites or blacks, or this group of kids or these groups of adults.”
Donkor said her group then began to question Lukay.
“So we ask, ‘What do you mean by you people? Have you seen this group here before?’” Donkor said.
Lukay said she recognized faces within the group.
“I said to them, ‘As ... your group has done this many times, I said you guys come, and you would always give us the wrong amount of people,’” Lukay said. “That is when all hell broke loose,” Lukay said.
Dorkar said she told Lukay about her disappointment because she believes and tells others that you should speak out against oppression.
“I always say to myself, my friends and my students that the more you keep quiet in the face of your oppression, we become complicit in your oppression,” Dorkar said.
Lukay said the restaurant was full of customers and that she was not going to yell because of that.
“They were screaming at me, yelling at me,” Lukay said.
The ASU disagreed with Lukay.
“She yelled the entire time,” Tuah said.
This encounter ended in Dorkar and Tuah’s party leaving the restaurant.
“The most painful part of it is that in this microaggression is when you see that there's more discrimination among people you think you identify with that are also people of color,” Donkar said.
Lukay said the incident was a miscommunication and feels that she was not discriminatory.
“I'm not racist,” Lukay said. “Any of my people can tell you that. Any of my customers can tell you that. We have lots of customers that love us and continue on coming, no matter what.”
Lukay said that sometimes in the restaurant business, she gets certain tough customers who are difficult to deal with.
“Sometimes they treat you like you're trash ... You know, we're all people, and we do the best that we can,” Lukay said.