Local News

Resolution reached in Raleigh bar discrimination claim

Posted October 1, 2012 3:16 p.m. EDT
Updated October 1, 2012 7:10 p.m. EDT

— A downtown Raleigh bar manager and a customer who says he was kicked out of the bar because he is black were able to resolve the matter Monday, prompting Wake County prosecutors to dismiss a criminal complaint against the manager.

Jonathan Wall, 21, filed the complaint this summer against Todd Chriscoe, accusing him of simple assault and ethnic intimidation stemming from a June 17 encounter at the Downtown Sports Bar and Grill in which Chriscoe told Wall that he would have to buy a drink or leave.

Wall, a Harvard graduate student, said that when he tried to explain to Chriscoe that he was waiting for a friend who was using the bathroom, Chriscoe grabbed his wrists, put them behind his neck and forced him out of the bar.

Chriscoe and Wall sought mediation in recent months but failed to resolve the matter, prompting it to go to trial Monday.

The dispute, however, was settled prior to trial Monday afternoon after both sides met privately. Neither spoke of the details of the agreement but no money was involved in it.

"Disputes can be resolved through reason, and I think that's what happened today," Wall's attorney, Geoff Simmons, said.

"I think everyone, after a full and fair open discussion on the matter, concluded in this particular situation that this was what was appropriate," Chriscoe's attorney, Bill Young said.

Chriscoe still denies the accusations and said that, since June, the bar has suffered financially and that he has also received death threats.

Race, he said in an interview after court, was never a factor in the decision to ask Wall to leave the bar.

"I'm very offended by those accusations, as is my staff," Chriscoe said. "It's 2012. It's kind of infuriating, but I do have a business to run."

Chriscoe said Wall had been in the bar for 25 minutes on the night in question and that Wall shoved him and grabbed his shirt when Chriscoe asked him either to buy a drink or leave.

"I grabbed his arm and slowly escorted him to the top of the stairs and walked him out," Chriscoe said.

Surveillance video from the bar, he said, shows that he never put Wall in a headlock or threw him to the ground outside the bar. He would not show WRAL News the video.

Wall's story sparked a social media firestorm and prompted numerous other people to come forward, saying they had observed racial bias at the bar.

But other patrons defended the bar, denying that it discriminates.

Wall said little Monday afternoon, but offered his gratitude to his supporters.

"I would just like to thank everyone supporting me across this world, really, especially the Raleigh-Durham area," he said.

His attorneys said they are proud that Wall took a stand and shared his experience and hope that it will encourage people to continue a dialogue on race.

"His intention, in the beginning, was to say what happened to him, and that was it," attorney Alesia Vicks said. "Then, floodgates opened, and the dialogue started and will continue, and we're all going to be better for it because of this situation."