Panel finds Summer House guilty of discrimination
Rehoboth Beach — The Summer House restaurant in Rehoboth Beach has been fined $15,000 by a panel of the state Human Relations Commission, which found it discriminated against two gay men last year.
The three-person panel unanimously found in favor of plaintiffs Daniel Truitt and Mark Queen and awarded the two men $5,000 each. A $5,000 civil penalty was also assessed.
The Summer House denies that it discriminated against Truitt and Queen and plans to fight the ruling in court.
In addition to the fines, the panel, consisting of commission members Bernice Edwards, Diaz Bonville and Earnest Gulab, also ordered Summer House to post its nondiscrimination policy where all employees can see it prior to the start of every shift. Edwards and Bonville did not return requests for comment.
In a Sept. 13 hearing, Sgt. Benjamin Mitchell of the Rehoboth Beach Police Department said on March 6, he was assisting another officer at Cloud 9, when he saw what appeared to be a bar fight going on next door at Summer House. He said a group of people was yelling at him to arrest Nick Hutu, a bouncer at Summer House.
Mitchell interviewed Hutu on the night of the incident, but not Queen and Truitt, who later said they left the area because they were embarrassed. Hutu denied throwing Queen and Truitt out of the bar.
Queen and Truitt told the panel they arrived at Summer House between 11 and 11:30 p.m. with a group of friends. Truitt told Mitchell that Hutu had shoved Queen, who was dancing, and asked a member of Truitt and Queen’s party, “Why don’t you go to the gay bar, Cloud 9?” Queen testified that he then left the bar and went to Cloud 9 while his friends stayed at Summer House.
Later in the evening, Queen said he found Truitt and his friends outside the bar; Truitt said Hutu had shoved another member of their group. Around 1:20 a.m., when Queen wanted to go back into the Summer House and identify who had shoved their friend, Hutu would not let them in. Queen said when Hutu saw Queen pointing at him, identifying Hutu as the one that had shoved his friend, Hutu came outside and knocked Queen to the ground.
Queen told the panel he felt hostility at Summer House because he was gay. He said he was singled out for poor treatment because he was gay. Queen said people were still going in and out of the bar after 1 a.m., but he noticed the bar was closing.
In his testimony, Truitt said when Hutu hit Queen for a second time, he thought Hutu said, “Go to your gay bar.” Corroborating Queen's story, Truitt said when the group tried to identify who had hit their friend, Hutu was gesturing at them and then ran outside and knocked Queen to the ground, asking him, “Why don’t you go back to your gay bar?”
Truitt said Summer House was a hostile environment for him and Queen because they were gay. Another witness, Daniel Chasteen, who agreed to testify on behalf of Queen when he heard what happened to him, also reported incidents of hostility toward gay men at Summer House.
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