MYRTLE BEACH — A racial discrimination lawsuit filed by the NAACP against a North Myrtle Beach restaurant was settled this week just as the case was scheduled to go to trial in Charleston.
Molly Darcy’s on the Beach, an Irish-themed restaurant along the oceanfront, agreed with the NAACP on Wednesday to dismiss the case. Jury selection in the trial had been scheduled for Thursday. Terms of the dismissal have not yet been disclosed. Lawyers for both sides have until Nov. 1 to submit a proposed consent decree and order of dismissal to the court.
Lawyers representing each side could not be reached for comment Friday.
The NAACP and four individuals – two from Loris and two from Ohio – sued the restaurant’s owners in 2011, claiming they regularly shut down their establishment during the Memorial Day holiday solely to keep black motorcyclists attending the Atlantic Beach Bikefest from dining there.
The owners say the restaurant closes during the Memorial Day holiday because they use that period to do renovations before the peak summer tourism season. Documentation provided during depositions shows the owners “performed significant annual renovations and maintenance” during the holiday, according to court documents. The renovations have included refurbishing a ceramic floor, cleaning carpets and insulating air conditioning ductwork.
Philip Thompson, a Conway lawyer representing the restaurant’s owners, had argued earlier this year for a summary judgment in the case. Thompson said that regardless of why the restaurant is closed, it is closed to everybody and that means there can be no discrimination claim.
Federal Judge Bryan Harwell disagreed, saying Thompson’s argument “would ignore the subtle but significant factual questions that this action raises.”
The restaurant’s owners had estimated that African-Americans make up between 30 percent and 40 percent of their customers when Molly Darcy’s is open. Leon Hines – one of the individuals who sued Molly Darcy’s – testified during a deposition that he and his wife were served at the restaurant on the Tuesday before Bikefest in 2010.
Lee and Latrena Edwards, two other individual who sued the restaurant, said in depositions that they filed a complaint after hearing radio broadcasts in which the NAACP urged people who felt that they might have been discriminated against during the 2010 Bikefest to contact the organization.
Contact DAVID WREN at 626-0281.