Therapy Café and Six Figure Entertainment used to have a working relationship.
But those days are over and allegations of racism are floating around the Internet after Kirk Brown, CEO of Six Figure Entertainment, a local promotions company, sent out an e-mail blast accusing the martini bar of racial insensitivity. According to the e-mail:
We've ... become aware of an undertone of racial insensitivity to the patrons of SFE as noted by many of you via the automatic addition of 20% gratuity to your bills. For your information, this occurred based upon the comments and attitudes of the management staff that "African-American People Don't Tip." If this were simply the attitude of the employees, our relationship could possibly be sustained through diversity training etc.; however since this is the attitude of management it is best that we part company now. We do not condone and WILL NOT tolerate anyone disrespecting the brand of SFE and its patrons.
The owners of Therapy, located at 401 N. Tryon St., are firing back and are seeking legal advice on how to proceed.
Here's what isn't in dispute: Six Figure Entertainment and Therapy Café entered into a partnership, which would allow the promoters to host events at the restaurant on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Owner Jason Stone said he and his partner knew Brown and knew his ability to get people in the door.
Brown said that Therapy was supposed to make some upgrades before Six Figure began holding their events at the café. He said some of those things weren't taken care of (Stone said the restaurant upgraded its sound system and purchased new glasses as well as lowered the price on menu items.) but they went in anyway.
"We were trying to help them out," Brown said. "So that they could generate some of the money so that they could get some of those things. Meeting with one of the owners, he let me know that they didn't have the capital to invest in [upgrades]. And I said, 'Why didn't you tell me that in the beginning? We could've made a decision to move forward or not to move forward.'"
But Brown said he decided to work with Therapy anyway.
Stone said Therapy, which is eight years old, is always looking for new ways to drive people into their business and added that the cafe is a destination spot because they don't get a lot of walk in traffic like clubs and restaurants closer to the city's center.
"We have always had a very diverse crowd and very diverse employee base," Stone said. "We have always been very open to that and have always loved that about Charlotte. We love the diversity that Therapy brings and we have never, ever had a problem like this."
Brown said his allegations stem from the fact that a manager at the cafe told him one Saturday night that Therapy was adding a 20-percent gratuity to patrons' tickets because black people don't tip.
"Last week was our customer appreciation event, and this is where everything blew up. This was our third week with Therapy. The night of the appreciation, we had already talked about the 20-percent gratuity. And the night of the event, the manager came to me and said we're going to add 20-percent to everyone's bill because the waiters aren't getting tipped," he said. "I said, 'People tip on service and if your service is not right, you're going to get tipped on that.'"
Adam Rees, Therapy's general manager, said the confrontation between Brown and the manager was very loud and unprofessional. But Brown's partner (who Brown chose not to name) had wanted to renegotiate with Therapy about doing future events that Brown wouldn't be a part of.
Stone said after two meetings with Brown where he'd stormed out and said he wasn't going to work with Therapy anymore, they decided to go in another direction.
"Within an hour of that conversation, we'd been labeled as racist. It is a sickening feeling to read this," Stone said. "It makes me physically ill to see that someone is calling my business racist. That is the last thing in the world I would ever tolerate in my business. If there was even a whisper that someone acted this way, they would be immediately terminated."
But Brown said when he asked to see if the 20-percent rule was being applied to black and white customers, he was never shown evidence that was the case. "If you're going to do a percentage, that should be done across the board, Caucasian, Indian, black, whatever the case night be," he said.
But Stone said Brown's allegations are false and stem from his anger at the partnership ending. "We are not taking this lightly. We are not racist," said Stone. "Our doors are open to anybody."