The legality of denying someone service?

So if someone owns a private restaurant or store, do they the owner have the right to deny a patron service for any reason they feel? just like a private homeowner can deny any guest they want?

If some owner doesn’t like someone’s clothes or haircut or just the look of their face even, technically would they violate some law (at least in the US) by denying them service for that reason?

I know there are certain anti-discrimination laws but how far do they go when it comes to private businesses and providing services or not?

Previous thread:

Basically, you can’t discriminate against protected classes if you serve the general public (if you run a private club targeted for certain clientele, you have more leeway):
Federal: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protected_class
California: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unruh_Civil_Rights_Act

Beyond that, it depends. This one legal site suggests that apparently “hippies” and “police officers” are a protected class in California too, but I couldn’t find any cites for that. The CA gov says “However California Supreme Court has held that protections under the Unruh Act are not necessarily restricted to these characteristics. The Act is meant to cover all arbitrary and intentional discrimination by a business establishment on the bases of personal characteristics similar to those listed above.”, so maybe it’s judged on a case-by-case basis.

I studied these rules, some years ago for a term paper that I never finished.

The Federal and California acts you cite are nearly identical, almost word-for-word, except that the California Unruh Act lists a few additional protected classes that the Federal act does not. (At least as of 20 years ago. I don’t know how either of these acts might have been amended since then.)

BUT: The Federal act is a Federal law, and cases involving it are brought in Federal Courts; whereas cases involving the State law are brought in California State Courts. (I don’t know what determines if a particular case would be brought in the Federal or State courts.) These two court systems, being independent of each other, might rule differently even on similar cases, depending, I suppose, on how the respective judges just happened to read the laws.

And that’s exactly what happened. Some Federal Court, in a Federal case, ruled that the Federal law is meant to be interpreted narrowly, giving protection only to the specific protected classes listed in the law.

Whereas, in a California State Court case, the judge ruled that, by his interpretation, the list of protected classes specified in the law was only representative, and that the law was meant to apply to any people who could show that they belong to any class that they could show was commonly discriminated against. Or something along those lines.

Thus it came about that the Federal and California laws, while reading nearly identically, came to be interpreted very differently by, respectively, the Federal and State courts, with the California law being given the much broader and more-inclusive interpretation.

(ETA: 20-some years ago, I could have given ten pages of cites for the laws, and discussions thereof, and the formal legal books where the cases were published.)

Yeah, it’s pretty interesting. Apparently, in California, even neo-Nazism is a protected class:

4 neo-Nazi diners were asked to leave a restaurant because they were openly displaying swastikas and calling the waiter a nigger. They sued with the help of the ACLU and apparently won. The LA Times article says it was a 1st Amendment issue, which is strange because the restaurant is not the government. That was way back in 1988 and I haven’t been able to find the actual court case, sadly.

Meanwhile in Oregon, restaurants can apparently freely kick out cops because they don’t like them:
http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/06/04/police-officer-asked-leave-portland-coffee-shop/

I’ve seen the sign that says
WE RESERVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE SERVICE TO ANYONE

I read somewhere about a humorous variation:
WE RESERVE THE RIGHT TO SERVE REFUSE TO ANYONE

:smiley:

Per that legal site I gleamed from this:

So you can’t deny someone services for those reasons. How about you just randomly decide to deny someone service for another reason like a haricut, or even because someone just looks like trouble (not for any of the above reasons though) or something as random as a patron reminds you of someone you don’t like etc. Would the owner face legal action for things such as that?

Well, couldn’t that “etc.” include people who have made trouble in the store (making noise, throwing things, disturbing other customers with loud talking and foul language, making movements suggesting they are trying to steal merchandise, or otherwise being a nuisance in the store)? I got thrown out of stores when I was a kid and told not to come back in…

What if the restaurant owner rolled a dice in front of all the diners, and kicked out whichever table came up?

(so if there were 20 tables, he might roll a d20 and kick out that table)

Would this be legal?

Yeah, it seems to me that if I could deny you service because I don’t like your hairsltyle, I could effectively deny service to whatever class of people I (don’t) like.

(It was his awful taste in clothing, yer honner, honest, I didn’t even notice his skin color!)

At least under federal law, the answer to all of these questions is “YES.” If the person or persons is not being asked to leave for a reason specifically mentioned in federal law, a business owner can throw him out.

The owner can roll dice, throw out people for hairstyles, and even for sexual orientation. Now, if you can prove in court that the owner is using hairstyle as a pretext to exclude protected groups, then that is actionable (IOW, “Judge I don’t exclude blacks, I only exclude those persons who have negroid hair features” will not work)

The law here seems to be much the same. A couple of years ago there was a case where a pub landlord refused admission to a bunch of mentally handicapped people. Sounds terrible - yes?

He ran a successful karaoke evening once a week and the people from the local home liked it too. So much so that they began to monopolise the stage - it being hard to get them off once they started singing. This meant that the other patrons, the ones who purchased lots of beer and made up the profit, stopped coming, so the landlord tried to ban the handicapped.

He lost his case and got fined for discrimination. So now no one has a karaoke night and the handicapped people stopped coming because there was no singing.

He would be better to take the D20 to each table at each course and get them to make a saving throw versus ejection. The place would be full of D&D geeks who wouldn’t mind being thrown out occasionally.

Modifiers for wearing suitable armour (restaurant tee-shirts, or similar) etc.

Sounds like he created the problem by choosing to deal with the wrong problem. If the problem is that some people choose to do too many songs, limit the number of songs, and ban people who repeatedly violate the rule. Since that would apply to everybody, that would have passed muster.

We didn’t lie to you folks… Here’s Jarrow Elvis…

Sounds like he was a poor businessman, as the bad publicity engendered by involving yourself unnecessarily in a lawsuit with the mentally challenged would far outweigh the minor disturbances their presence might cause. If nothing else, having an “unlimited” karaoke night might have been a better solution than going to court and having the media rake you over the coals.

This is why it’s confusing to me that people would want to ban anybody who has money to spend from their business. Unless they are physically your place of business, the competition out there is pretty fierce, meaning that you need to bring in as many people as you can. Apparently, some people either forget that or never learn it.

That’s the saddest karaoke story I’ve ever heard.