Bella Vita Restaurant in Indianapolis faces discrimination charge

INDIANAPOLIS – Akia Haynes, Deputy Director and General Counsel for the Indiana Civil Rights Commission (ICRC), issued a notice of finding against Bella Vita Restaurant in Indianapolis, Ind. The charge states there is probable cause to believe that an unlawful discriminatory practice occurred in violation of the Indiana Civil Rights Law (Ind. Code § 22-9, et seq.).

By way of background, the Complainant (who is an African American) along with several companions visited the Respondent’s establishment (Bella Vita Restaurant) on or about July 24, 2014. During the course of the Complainant’s visit, she alleges that she waited nearly two hours before a Caucasian waitress took her order.

After waiting for an extended period of time and observing Caucasian patrons receiving service, Complainant asked the waitress about the status of her order. The waitress then responded by saying “I placed your f***ing order.” Ultimately, Complainant learned that the waitress never submitted her order to the cook. The Complainant left the establishment without receiving her order.

While Respondent was given an opportunity to refute Complainant’s assertions, it has failed to respond to inquiries from the ICRC including a subpoena requesting an answer and information pertaining to the matter. As such, and based on the state’s investigation, probable cause exists to believe a discriminatory practice occurred as alleged.

In order to prevail in this case, Complainant must prove that 1) she is a member of a protected class; 2) Respondent offers its services to the public; 3) she tried to access Respondent’s services; 4) Respondent denied Complainant access to its services; and 5) Respondent treated similarly-situated patrons of another race more favorably under similar circumstances.

A public hearing is necessary to determine whether a violation of the Indiana Civil Rights Law occurred as alleged. The parties may agree to have these claims heard in the circuit or superior court in the county in which the alleged discriminatory act occurred. However, both parties must agree to such an election and notify the Commission within twenty (20) days of receipt of this Notice, or the Commission’s Administrative Law Judge will hear this matter.

The Indiana Civil Rights Commission enforces the Indiana civil rights laws and provides education and services to the public in an effort to ensure equal opportunity for all Hoosiers and visitors to the State of Indiana.