3 black women allege racial discrimination at Blufin

TaNisha Prater was dining with friends at the Grosse Pointe sushi eatery Saturday when she says they were forced to leave

Stephanie Steinberg
The Detroit News

Three African-American women were dining at Blufin Sushi in Grosse Pointe Farms on Saturday evening when they say the general manager forced them to leave the bar so she could seat other customers.

Believing they were targets of racial discrimination as the only blacks in the restaurant, TaNisha Prater, a Grosse Pointe Park resident, immediately took to Facebook Live to document the incident.

The 16-minute video — which reached 54,000 views and over 1,700 shares — shows Prater first inside the establishment before the general manager asks her to step outside, saying “you’re causing a major scene.”

Prater, 40, co-owner of Thrift on the Ave in Midtown, then moved outside to voice her concerns on Facebook Live.

“Friends and I were at the bar. We were minding our own business. We were eating, having our drinks and the general manager Katherine Fiscelli came up to us and asked us to leave the bar so she could seat others at the bar… I am so furious,” she says into the camera, mentioning that her hands are shaking.

She then says the general manager called the Grosse Pointe police, alleging that she and her friends, Kim Lloyd Hudson, 43, and Adrienne Savage, 45, were drunk.

“I’m not drunk,” Prater says in the video. “I had sushi, I had sliders, I had one drink. And the rest of the time I’ve been here I’ve had water.”

About 10 minutes later, an officer shows up to talk to the women and ask for their identification. In the video, the officer says the general manager told him she was trying to make space and thought the women had already paid.

“She admitted she made a mistake,” the officer said. “She thought you cashed out. She was wrong.”

Prater responded, “She didn’t admit that mistake to us. She actually told us we were free to leave.”

The Grosse Pointe Farms Department of Public Safety was unable to comment when reached Monday morning.

In a phone interview Monday afternoon with Prater, Hudson and Savage — all Grosse Pointe Park residents — the women said they left shortly after the video ended, and no charges were made. They also haven’t heard from the restaurant.

However, they have received an “overwhelming amount of support from social media and the community,” Prater says.

Blufin Sushi’s main line was busy Monday, and restaurant officials could not be reached for comment. The general manager also did not respond to an email request.

On Monday evening, owner Joel Radu told WXYX (Channel 7) that he is investigating the situation, which involves his 23-year-old niece who started as a general manager three months ago.

“I apologize that anybody would have that experience here and that’s not what I ever want to see happen again,” he said.

According to its website, Blufin opened on Mack in September 2010. A renovation took place in January 2016 to accommodate more patrons.

The restaurant’s Facebook page, down to 1.3 stars, was bombarded by posts from the community expressing their dismay. One customer, Betty Palfrey, said she was dining at Blufin around 7:45 p.m. Saturday when she and her colleagues witnessed the three women being asked to give up their seats.

“I found that to be odd because we observed two empty tables nearby,” Palfrey wrote. “We continued to observe these young ladies look unsure of what to do. I am old enough to have lived through the ’60s to have witnessed racism first-hand and I can say that I have not experienced that type of treatment since then. … They were enjoying an evening out no different than myself or anyone else there.”

As of 1:15 p.m. Monday, the Blufin Facebook page was taken down.

Other area bars also have come under fire for racially charged incidents in the past.

In September, Mark Jerant, co-owner of Bookies Bar and Grill in Detroit, apologized for “insensitive” comments he made on Facebook following the fatal police shooting of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed African-American man in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Two days later, the bar severed ties with Jerant.

In light of the Blufin incident, Savage, a communications manager for a health insurance company, says she hopes the Grosse Pointe police will review how they handle incidents involving racial discrimination.

“When they showed up, they were confrontational at first with us,” Savage says. “They asked for our ID, they asked for our car registration and we weren’t in a car. They were trying to shift the focus on, ‘it must be you.’ That, for me, was frustrating.”

The women say they’ve all frequented the restaurant several times and hadn’t experienced problems in the past, but that doesn’t mean other customers haven’t dealt with similar situations.

“We live in Grosse Pointe Park. We love our community. We love our neighborhood. Unfortunately these types of things occur,” Prater says.

That’s why she took to Facebook — to leave a record of the interaction and not ignore it.

“(You have) to speak up if you feel as though you’re not being treated fairly,” Prater says. “Don’t sit idly by and allow those types of things to occur because that’s how it’s able to perpetuate itself.”

The women say they also spoke up to be an example for their children.

“We want our children to grow up in a community where they feel comfortable voicing their opinions and views — without feeling ‘nothing will happen or no one will listen,’ ” Prater says.

“We understand that racism will probably be with us always, but it doesn’t give you the right to treat someone differently or unfairly or take away experiences that anyone else has the right to experience just because of your race or gender or color or ethnicity. That is not OK to take away common things from people just because of who they are.”


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Twitter: @Steph_Steinberg