Lawyer Mike Laux says he’ll file today a lawsuit against the owner of Saltgrass Steakhouse over treatment customers received in a dispute over mask-wearing and social distancing.

The episode was captured in a video that circulated widely on social media.

In announcing plans to file a federal lawsuit against Landry’s, Laux distributed this news release:

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On June 27, 2020, black Arkansas couple, Shayla Hooks and Tyrone Jackson,
were guests at Saltgrass Steakhouse in Little Rock. At all times, they were compliant with the State’s Phase 2 COVID-19 protocol which required face coverings and social distancing at restaurants. They were directed to their seats by the manager and they ordered food and drinks.

Approximately 15 minutes later, a party tour bus pulled up in the parking lot and a large group of unruly white people exited. None of these individuals wore a face covering. Nor did they observe social distancing rules. They entered the restaurant, summoned the manager and told her that they wished to sit in the area near Ms. Hooks and Mr. Jackson. The problem presented is that for the group to occupy that space, they would necessary be within 6 feet of Ms. Hooks and Mr. Jackson
and, therefore, in defiance of Arkansas’ COVID-19 protocol. Moreover, they would present an unreasonable health risk to Ms. Hooks and Mr. Jackson.

And yet, the Saltgrass manager shirked her responsibility, acquiescing to the group: “I don’t care. If it’s okay with them (Ms. Hooks and Mr. Jackson), then it’s okay with me.”

This reckless abdication by the manager shifted the responsibility for enforcement of Arkansas’ COVID-19 protocol for businesses from trained restaurant management staff to untrained paying guest. For his safety, Mr. Jackson declined the request, and the result was a series of racially tinged statements and acts of aggressive intimidation directed at Ms. Hooks and Mr. Jackson ….

In Laux’s account, one of the group of white customers intentionally coughed on his clients. Loud arguments ensued and finally a fight. Laux said Hooks was punched in the face, suffering a black eye.

UPDATE: A spokesman for Saltgrass provided the following statement:

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“Saltgrass Steakhouse is a family oriented restaurant which serves hundreds of thousands of customers at 87 restaurants nationwide.  Our doors are open to customers of all races, ethnicities and national origins.  Unfortunately, on June 27 an assailant started a fight in our restaurant which began and ended with his violent acts, endangering numerous employees and innocent bystanders.  In a distasteful ploy the assailant and his counsel have attempted to extort a $2 million payment from Saltgrass, and have now filed a frivolous lawsuit and are conducting a media campaign to publicize the fight as an act of racial injustice caused by our family friendly restaurant.  Saltgrass had no role in this unfortunate incident.  Saltgrass Steakhouse supports the movement to end racial injustice and denounces intolerant and violent behavior of any kind in its restaurants.  Saltgrass will not compensate these individuals for a fight that began and ended with their violent acts.”