SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) -- Fifty-three black relatives from the St. Louis area have filed a discrimination suit charging they were denied service at a Denny's restaurant in Springfield because of their race.
The relatives, most of whom live in the St. Louis area and Madison County, Ill., also charge that Denny's employees used racial epithets as they left the restaurant in July 2002.
The suit was filed last week in Greene County Circuit Court. It seeks compensatory and punitive damages for humiliation and emotional distress.
Curtis Hogue, attorney for Arkansas-based Mitchell Family Properties, which invests in Denny's Restaurant Corp., said he had not seen the suit but was aware of the incident.
"Neither my client, nor Denny's, discriminates," Hogue told the Springfield News-Leader. "The Denny's store did everything it could to accommodate these people with a limited evening staff, and evidence shows that."
Alonzo and Annette Hilton and their relatives said they were on their way to a family reunion in Branson when they stopped about 5:30 a.m. at the restaurant.
Some of the relatives were seated, but others were left waiting, the suit said.
The relatives charge the assistant manager, who is white, used racially offensive terms while asking them to leave after those left waiting asked why they were not being served.
Five men with ties to white supremacists groups were convicted earlier this year of stabbing a black man in a 2001 incident at the restaurant that authorities said was racially motivated. The incident did not involve employees.