A Miami Beach restaurateur will pay $15,000 to settle a lawsuit accusing him of violating Florida law by adding a service charge to an African American couple's dinner check and saying black people do not tip well, state officials said today.
Florida sued Thai Toni restaurant in trendy South Beach after its owner, Hiromi Takarada, stirred a storm of protest by adding a 15 percent tip to the bill of black diners Charles Thompson and Theresa White on Oct. 23.
As part of the settlement, Takarada and his employees will undergo sensitivity training and part of the fine will be used to design a program to instruct other businesses on their "non-discrimination responsibilities," Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth said.
"This agreement not only corrects a serious problem at one restaurant, it provides the resources to instruct other businesses on proper behavior toward their customers," Butterworth said in a statement.
Florida charged Takarada on Nov. 8 with violation of the state's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act for adding the 15 percent gratuity to Thompson and White's check.
When Thompson asked why a similar tip had not been added to the check of a nearby white couple, he said Takarada said "black people don't tip well." The restaurant owner later repeated the comment to a police officer, according to police reports.
Under the settlement, Florida will drop its lawsuit and Thai Toni will follow a policy under which a 15 percent gratuity will be added to every patron's bill and customers will be told they can increase or decrease the amount.
Takarada was beset by pickets, protests and a drop in business after the Oct. 23 incident. The restaurant was expelled from the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau and removed from the bureau's visitors' guides and Internet site.
Takarada could not be reached for comment. His lawyer, Kent Harrison Robbins, told the Miami Herald that Takarada believed education was the best solution.
"The best approach is to recognize the errors of the past and move on to the future," Robbins told the newspaper. "He's very sorry if he gave anyone the impression he was discriminating because of race."