McFadden's Restaurant & Saloon settles race-bias suit

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A settlement has been reached between the owners of McFadden's and a black bartender who filed a lawsuit against the bar and its owner. (Alejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer)

McFadden's Restaurant & Saloon has settled a lawsuit filed by a bartender who claimed that the establishment was racially biased, and has agreed to take steps to prevent discrimination.

As part of the settlement, the bartender, Michael L. Bolden, will receive no financial compensation, both sides said in a joint statement Tuesday.

Bolden filed a lawsuit last month against the popular Old City bar and East Coast Saloons, which the suit described as McFadden's parent company. Bolden alleged that McFadden's and East Coast Saloons had a national policy of discrimination against nonwhite employees and customers.

The suit contained text messages and e-mails exchanged between managers, including one that declared: "We don't want black people we are a white bar!"

John L. Sullivan, the majority shareholder of McFadden's, at 461 N. Third St., said in the statement: "We would like to thank [Bolden] for bringing the discrimination he experienced and witnessed to our attention. Race discrimination at McFadden's 3rd Street is not acceptable and will not be tolerated."

Walt Wyrsta, the general manager who sent the inflammatory texts, was fired after an internal investigation at the restaurant, attorneys for both sides confirmed. His termination was not part of the settlement.

Sullivan is the reported main principal of East Coast Saloons, which operates restaurants and bars around the country, including other establishments with the McFadden's name.

Bolden said in the statement that it was his decision not to receive compensation as part of the settlement.

"My goal was to effectuate changes at McFadden's that would positively impact race relations," Bolden said.

Bolden also is an attorney for the nonprofit Community Legal Services, which provides legal aid for the poor.

A consent order entered in federal court requires that McFadden's hire a human-resources consulting firm to create and enforce nondiscrimination policies.

A confidential hotline will be established for employees to report complaints.

McFadden's also will be required to provide quarterly reports on its progress to the court for one year.

In 2007, the bar hired Bolden, who was then a law student at Temple University. He worked his way up to a senior bartender's job, the suit said.

To increase business this year, the Wednesday night manager of McFadden's hired a black disc jockey and a promoter, and successfully attracted large weeknight crowds in June and July that were "mostly comprised of nonwhite patrons," the suit said.

But in August, as white patrons were returning to the city from the Shore, the Wednesday promotion was halted and other steps were taken to discourage nonwhite customers, the suit alleged.

In a court filing, an attorney for McFadden's denied the claims.

 


Contact staff writer Robert Moran at 215-854-5983 or bmoran@phillynews.com.