Black man suing Grand Rapids bar for refusing entry

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A would-be patron of Tavern on the Square is suing the downtown Grand Rapids business he says refused to allow him in because he’s black.

Marcel Price is seeking more than $25,000 in damages from Tavern on the Square and Christopher Balasco, who he says was an employee during the July 29 encounter.

Lawyers for Price filed the lawsuit in Kent County’s 17th Circuit Court last month.

In it, Price said he was touring downtown with two friends and his girlfriend when Balasco refused to allow him into Tavern on the Square.

Price said when he asked Balasco if it was because he’s black; Price said Balasco answered “yes.”

At that point, Price began recording the encounter on his phone, asking Balasco to repeat why he was denying him entry.

“The bouncer stated words to the effect that the establishment already had three black people inside and thus no more would be allowed in. Immediately after, the bouncer threatened Mr. Price and then violently slapped the mobile phone out of Plaintiff’s hands and on to the ground,” the lawsuit states.

In the lawsuit, Price said Balasco “assaulted him intentionally and maliciously” and he thought Balasco was about to attack him.

General manager Michael Weinrich previously told 24 Hour News 8 that his employee was just letting people know it was closing time and that they were not allowing anyone else in the bar.

Price said he’s including Tavern on the Square in the lawsuit because he says a statement the business temporarily posted on its Facebook page about the incident was inaccurate and defamatory.

“I think it’s a large misunderstanding,” Weinrich said a day after the incident. “I believe he started recording after a lot of antagonizing and provoking.”

“Mr. Price did not engage in any ‘threatening banter,’ and was not at the door for ten minutes prior to being assaulted,” the lawsuit states.

Price said the restaurant’s response was negligent at the least, as they could verify what happened from Balasco and security tapes.

He also said Tavern on the Square and Urban Feast “have an unspoken policy of racial exclusion, and thus trained and directed Mr. Balasco to act in the manner he did.”

Wienrich told 24 Hour News 8 that his tavern is equal opportunity and there is no discrimination allowed.

Weinrich went on to say that the slapping of the phone was not OK, but that he did not witness the incident himself.

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