A federal lawsuit filed by a successful African-American businessman against a Newport Beach steakhouse that repeatedly listed him on credit card receipts as "McStinkyNigger," "McNigShit" and "McCottonwood" has been mutually dismissed, according to records at Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Orange County.
Court files show that lawyers representing plaintiff Mark McHenry and Landmark Steakhouse of Corona del Mar agreed to a stipulated settlement of the lawsuit on Feb. 2 -- a month before the case was scheduled to be heard by a jury.
No terms of the settlement were revealed. But you can guess any payment to McHenry is going to be financially substantial. It is against federal law for a public business to brazenly discriminate against a customer based on race.
And there was this: The 10-month-old case ended after McHenry's lawyers atReed Smith LLP
in Los Angeles uncovered an additional 12 inflammatory examples of racists comments and after U.S. Magistrate JudgeVictor B. Kenton
rejected the restaurant's strenuous attempts to thwart the lawyers from inspecting 167,000 other customer receipts to check for a systematic, widespread use of racial epithets.
In a deposition, Mario Marovic, a partial owner of CDM Restaurant, Inc. which includes Landmark Steakhouse, said that he does not "discriminate against any group of people on any basis whatsoever."
The court files reviewed by the Weekly show that Marovic was shocked by McHenry's allegations, conducted an investigation and ultimately blamed the racist incidents on a bartender, Michael Cederoth. Though Cederoth did not confess, Marovic believed he'd given "inconsistent" answers during interviews and fired him a week after the lawsuit was filed, according to court records.
A customer during dozens and dozens of visits, McHenry had considered the restaurant enjoyable, took friends there and was a generous tipper. After one visit he returned home, saw an inflammatory receipt and discovered older receipts were similarly despicable. When confronted, restaurant employees including manager Dustin Caratello repeatedly apologized and attempted to downplay the bigotry, according to court records.
At the time of the McHenry incidents, the Orange County Young Republicans chose Landmark Steakhouse as their "favorite spot" for monthly drink mixers. We know this because both sides in the litigation tied the group to the dispute in their official filings, and the federal judge noted their presence as well, according to court records.
Just weeks after McHenry filed his lawsuit, an elected member of the Orange County Republican Party emailed fellow Republicans a doctored photograph of Barack Obama that portrayed the president and his parents as chimpanzees.
Obama is scheduled to attend a Thursday Corona del Mar campaign event just blocks away from the Landmark Steakhouse.
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--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly
(email: rscottmoxley at ocweekly dot com)