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Restaurant Settles Bias Lawsuit


Lola's Restaurant, a popular West Hollywood nightspot, has settled a discrimination lawsuit brought by two dozen African Americans who claimed they were refused entry because of their race.

The terms of the settlement are confidential. Restaurant attorney Dale B. Goldfarb said Lola's has expressed regret for any inconvenience plaintiffs believed they suffered but denies any wrongdoing.

Plaintiff Nedra Jenkins said she feels vindicated by the settlement.

"Cases like this put restaurants on notice," said Jenkins, who charged that Lola's canceled her reservations for a 30th birthday party after discovering she was black. "You cannot discriminate against people just because of their color .... It's just not acceptable."

In October, a Los Angeles judge declared a mistrial after a jury deadlocked on 70 of 72 allegations. In two instances, the jury cleared Lola's employees of wrongdoing.

Goldfarb said the suit was settled to avoid the cost of a second trial.

The plaintiffs charged that between August 1999 and January 2000, Lola's turned them away, saying they were not dressed properly or lacked reservations. The suit alleged those were pretexts.

"The evidence against the restaurant was overwhelming," plaintiff's attorney Carl E. Douglas said.

For example, he said, testimony included an incident in which a group of employees from one company met at the Fairfax Avenue restaurant for happy hour.

"It was basically a mini United Nations," Douglas said. The whites, Asians and Filipinos were admitted, Douglas said, but the blacks were barred.

Jenkins said she made arrangements with Lola's over the phone weeks before her birthday party.

The night before the party, she went by Lola's to reconfirm. Employees said her party was canceled because Hollywood stars had booked the place for a party.

Jenkins said she had to find a new place. The night of the party, she said, she drove by Lola's twice and saw no signs of a private celebration.

Goldfarb said the restaurant never engaged in racial profiling.

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