EQUALITY WATCH : Hold the Bigotry!

Will the Denny's restaurant chain ever get it?

Equal treatment for all customers, regardless of color, has been the law for nearly 30 years now. Yet a Denny's restaurant in Maryland refused to serve a group of six black men on the very same day the company settled a discrimination case in California, also involving African-Americans.

We hope there is more than a little embarrassment at Denny's headquarters now that the company knows that the six denied service were Secret Service agents. They were among 21 Secret Service personnel in Annapolis on April 1 to prepare for a visit by President Clinton. When the entire contingent went to have breakfast at a Denny's, the restaurant served all of them except for six black agents who happened to sit at the same table. The six walked out after waiting more than an hour. They have since filed a lawsuit over the incident. The Denny's manager has been fired.

James P. Turner, acting head of the Justice Department's civil rights division, said the incident happened just hours before Denny's agreed to a voluntary consent decree that settled charges of racial discrimination at several restaurants in California.

In the agreement, which covered all the chain's nearly 1,500 restaurants, Denny's acknowledged "isolated customer concerns" but denied that the incidents constitute a pattern of racism. It agreed to reinforce existing nationwide policies against discrimination. That's fine, but from the look of things, Denny's still needs to work to get discrimination off its menu.

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