A former contestant on the Bravo competition series “Top Chef” has filed a lawsuit against the landlord of his Washington, D.C., restaurant, claiming that he tried to sabotage his business because it draws an African American crowd.
In the suit, Tim Dean, who competed on Season 7 of the reality series, says that he and his partners entered into a lease with Union Place Phase I in 2012, “during an economic down time in the District of Columbia.”
The next year, the lawsuit claims, the community began to undergo a gentrification, turning from “a majority minority community to a majority White community.” And that, Dean says, is when the trouble began.
According to the suit filed in U.S. District court for the District of Columbia, TD Burger was licensed to offer live entertainment with a cover charge, which wasn’t prohibited in the lease agreement — in fact, the suit says, the landlord told Dean and his team that live music would be a good way to boost business.
However, Dean claims, after attracting acclaimed R&B acts that brought in more than $20,000 in revenue a month, the landlord’s attorney sent a cease-and-desist letter regarding the live entertainment.
The lawsuit says that Dean and his crew reached out to the plaintiff’s management, and “were told ‘the tenants….,’ which are majority Caucasian white, ‘… do not feel sage with the Black clientele that the R&B/Jazz bands were attracting to the restaurant.’”
Dean and his partners claim that the live music attracted a professional crowd.
“These R&B/Jazz bands did not bring in ‘thugs,’ gang members or any other negative stereotypical portrayal of African Americans,” the lawsuit reads.
“It became very clear to Plaintiffs that the Defendant was using the irrational fears of Caucasian/whites tto undermine and undercut the revenue of Plaintiffs [sic] business based on Plaintiffs [sic] African American clientele,” the complaint adds.
Dean and his partners also say that their space was advertised for lease, even though they were not in default on the lease and there were no court proceedings pending.
Alleging unlawful discrimination and violation of the D.C. Human Rights Act, the lawsuit seeks $1 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages, plus other, unspecified relief.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.