Secret Service Agents Allege Racial Bias at Denny's
                            LEVEL 1 - 2 OF 2 STORIES
@@Copyright 1993 The Washington Post
The Washington Post
@@May 24, 1993, Monday, Final Edition

SECTION: FIRST SECTION; PAGE A4

LENGTH: 954 words

HEADLINE:  Secret Service Agents Allege  Racial Bias at
Denny's; Six Blacks to File Lawsuit Saying They Were Denied
Service at Annapolis Restaurant

SERIES: Occasional

BYLINE: Lynne Duke, Washington Post Staff Writer

 BODY:
#   The same day a federal court in California ordered Denny's
restaurants to stop refusing service to blacks and otherwise
discriminating against them, six black Secret Service agents
ordered food at a Denny's in Annapolis that took so  long to
arrive, they say, that in effect they were denied service.
   Today, the agents are to file a lawsuit claiming that the
restaurant chain violated their civil rights during the April 1
incident. The Justice Department, whose lawsuit against Denny's
resulted in the California court order, is demanding an
explanation from Denny's officials.

   Agent Robin D. Thompson, one of the six, said in an
interview last week that  he "felt humiliated" by the incident.
The six agents were part of a uniformed 21-member Secret
Service contingent that went to Denny's for breakfast before
setting up security for President Clinton's speech at the U.S.
Naval Academy. The six black agents sat together. Their
supervisor, also black, sat among white agents.

   All 21 agents, who had less than an hour to eat, ordered in
rapid succession. When the six black agents realized that all
the white agents and the supervisor  had been served but they
had not, they sent Thompson to ask the waitress about it. She
said their meals were on the way. When Thompson asked to see
the manager, she said he was on the phone. White agents have
told the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, which
is handling the agents' lawsuit, that  the waitress rolled her
eyes after turning to leave the black agents' table.

   The agents saw several plates of food sitting for several
minutes under heat  lamps on a counter next to the kitchen and
say that a small group of white customers entered the uncrowded
restaurant after them, ordered and was served while they still
waited.

   After numerous complaints, and with most other agents
finished eating and ready to go, the six black agents stood to
leave. It was only then, the agents say, that a tray of food
was offered to them. They refused it because there was  no time
to eat. "We had to go to Roy Rogers and eat in the van," said
Alfonso M. Dyson, a black agent.

   Thompson called the incident a "classic case of some kind of
bias."

   But Steve McManus, a senior vice president for TW Services
Inc., Denny's parent company, said the delay in the black
agents' service was caused by the size of their party -- 21
people -- and the complexity of their orders, which caused a
backlog in the kitchen. The six black agents were the only ones
affected by the delay because their table was the last to
order, said McManus, who questioned Denny's workers in
Annapolis yesterday.

   "It's a service issue, not a discriminatory issue," McManus
said.

   Despite the coincidence that the black agents' allegations
and the settlement in the Justice Department's California
lawsuit occurred on the same day, McManus said the two events
are unrelated.

   But Justice Department officials see it differently. The
consent decree in the California case had not been officially
entered when the Annapolis incident  occurred, but James P.
Turner, acting assistant attorney general for civil rights,
said in a statement Friday that ". . . the conduct alleged,
unless satisfactorily explained by corporate officials,
violates the letter and spirit  of the understanding we had
with the corporation."

   "We are demanding a complete explanation from the highest
officials of the company," Turner said. ". . . We intend to use
our authority to the fullest to ensure that incidents like this
do not recur in any part of this company's activities."

   Secret Service officials also have asked Denny's to explain
the incident. And White House communications director George
Stephanopoulos told the Los Angeles Times that "the president
is strongly against any discriminatory practices" and  that
"discrimination against black Secret Service agents would be a
very serious problem."

   The black agents' allegations are the latest in Denny's
legal troubles. In California, the restaurant chain faces a
civil suit from 32 African-American plaintiffs, many of whom
were involved in the allegedly discriminatory incidents that
prompted the Justice Department lawsuit.

   They maintain their civil rights were violated when Denny's
denied them full  service because of race. Their complaint,
filed March 24 in U.S. District Court  in northern California,
describes cases in which a black child was denied a Denny's
"Birthday Meal" unless the family could produce a birth
certificate; waitresses refusing to take black customers'
orders; blacks being forced to pay  for their meals before
being served; police being called to eject blacks, and a
company policy of "black out" periods when managers would
instruct employees to  start limiting the number of black
patrons.

   McManus would not comment on the ongoing litigation, but
when many of these allegations were made by the Justice
Department, Denny's officially denied discriminatory practices.

   The instances allegedly occurred in five Denny's restaurants
in San Diego, San Jose, Vallejo and Sacramento. Denny's
operates 1,460 retaurants nationwide.  TW Services, Denny's
parent company, also includes 215 Quincy's Family Steak Houses,
200 El Pollo Loco retaurants, 530 Hardees restaurants, as well
as concessions at Yankee Stadium, the Los Angeles Memorial
Coliseum, Yellowstone National Park and amusement parks. Dyson,
one of the black Secret Service agents, said he did not know of
the restaurant's troubles elsewhere. But when he learned that
others had made allegations similar to his, he was even
angrier.

   "You would never think it would happen to you, especially
not in full uniform," he said. "I was definitely unprepared. I
had let my guard down."

GRAPHIC: PHOTO, ROBIN D. THOMPSON, LEFT, AND ALFONSO M. DYSON,
WERE AMONG AGENTS AT DENNY'S. JUANA ARIAS

TYPE: NATIONAL NEWS, MARYLAND NEWS

SUBJECT: LAWSUITS; RACIAL DISCRIMINATION; RESTAURANTS AND BARS;
BLACKS

ORGANIZATION: DENNY'S RESTAURANTS; SECRET SERVICE; JUSTICE
DEPARTMENT; WASHINGTON LAWYERS COMMITTEE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS; TW
SERVICES INC.

NAMED-PERSONS: ROBIN D. THOMPSON; ALFONSO M. DYSON