Activists claim discrimination and denial of service, call on bowling alley to apologize

A Bishop, Calif. business is backing out of its agreement to meet with Asian and Muslim American activists who claim they were discriminated against and denied service at a bowling alley April 25.

Activists allege that they were denied service three times at Back Alley Bowling, Bar and Grill during the annual pilgrimage to the former Manzanar, Calif. concentration camp.

Leaders from the Florin Manzanar Pilgrimage Committee, the Florin chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, the Council on American Islamic Relations – Sacramento Valley, among others, sent a letter to owner Thomas L. Flesia and managers Helen French and Trina Favel May 13, which was posted on the Manzanar Committee’s blog.

French exchanged e-mails with Andy Noguchi, Florin Manzanar Pilgrimage Committee chairperson, between May 22 and June 8, to discuss a meeting between Flesia and the group.

However, in a letter to Noguchi dated June 9, attorney David Hammon wrote that he had advised his clients against meeting with the activists.

Hammon requested that “this matter be resolved at this point upon the record as it now stands. You have stated your displeasure and concerns; my clients have explained themselves and apologized for any misunderstanding. Be assured that these expressions are sincere.”

Hammon wrote that he had advised his clients against meeting with the activists “at this time.”

He added that, “Frankly, I do not perceive the utility in continuing to rehash a subject that has been fully vetted. My clients are innocent of any wrongdoings in this matter and need to be left alone so they can concentrate on making a living and serving those who appreciate their great work.

Again, they sincerely regret any misperceptions. They ask that I express to you and your group nothing but the best in all of your endeavors and hope you will accept their invitation to visit their establishment whenever you are in the area.”

The activists’ May 13 letter states that group members went to the bowling alley at around 9:45 p.m. April 25 when the “‘open’ sign outside was lit and the establishment was operating.” Bowling lanes were open, and some people were at the bar and restaurant, the letter states.

A “young clerk” was “flippant and rude,” saying the activists were unable to bowl because the establishment’s computer system was down. The group asked if the computer could be rebooted, “offered to wait for a repair person to come, to use the vacant lane, wait for the family to finish, pay cash if the cash register was down, hang out buying food and beverages, or even just watch the family bowl. They were met with flimsy excuses, lies, a statement that the family had been bowling with the system down for the past three hours, and the clerk saying they were shutting down,” the letter states.

Upon learning about the situation, a couple of group members returned to the bowling alley, but they too were refused, the letter states.

At around 10:30 p.m., the group saw some employees go outside to take out the trash.

They asked to speak with the employee they originally spoke with, but “he came outside inappropriately carrying a three-foot long stick and continuously raised the stick above his shoulders while speaking to our group,” the letter states.

The activists requested to speak with the manager. She repeated her staff’s “claim that the computer system was down and said they were shutting down early. …When asked if the group could come again the next day or get a discount, the manager claimed that she didn’t know if or when they would open up the bowling alley again. The manager said she was sorry that the group ‘did not get the response that you wanted,’” the letter said.

The Florin Manzanar Pilgrimage Committee, Noguchi said in an e-mail, “is calling for Back Alley Bowl and Grill who excluded our group of 15 Asian and Muslim Americans on April 25th to make a:

“1. Public apology for excluding our group on April 25th. Any non-apology for a ‘misunderstanding’ or a ‘misperception’ is not acceptable.

“2. Publicly commit to following anti-discrimination laws. The civil rights laws of California and the U.S. have prohibited this type of discrimination for over 50 years.

“3. Publicly welcome diverse customers, including the Florin Manzanar Pilgrimage.”

Noguchi said the Florin Manzanar Pilgrimage Committee, the Council on American Islamic Relations – Sacramento Valley and the Florin Japanese American Citizens League are “very disappointed that Back Alley Bowl backed out June 9th of their agreement to meet with us. The patronizing and misleading letter is outrageous. We are currently looking at many options to expand our protest including social media, raising public awareness, civil rights complaints, public boycott, demonstration, etc.”

When reached by the phone, the Back Alley Bowl declined to comment, saying “We can’t comment on the matter. It’s an ongoing issue.”
Hammon did not return the Nichi Bei Weekly’s requests for comment.

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