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New countersuit in discrimination case at Urth Caffé

A lawyer for the popular Southern California restaurant chain Urth Caffé filed court documents Nov. 8 alleging the seven Muslim women suing the chain for discrimination were trespassing at its Laguna Beach location on the night in question.
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November 17, 2016

A lawyer for the popular Southern California restaurant chain Urth Caffé filed court documents Nov. 8 alleging the seven Muslim women suing the chain for discrimination were trespassing at its Laguna Beach location on the night in question.

On April 22, the women, six of whom regularly wear the hijab, or Muslim headscarf, were asked to leave the restaurant’s Laguna Beach location. In a May 2 lawsuit, they alleged they were ejected because of their religion and not, as they were told at the time, because of a “45-minute policy” the location uses to clear tables during peak hours.

A placard at Urth Caffé displays the restaurant’s policy of a 45-minute limit.

Then, in June, David Yerushalmi, the Orthodox Jew who co-founded the conservative public interest law firm American Freedom Law Center and who is representing Urth Caffé pro bono, filed a countersuit alleging trespass. The countersuit focuses on the fact that for 45 minutes after they were asked to leave, the women refused, and were therefore trespassing on the restaurant’s property.

After he filed the countersuit, the lawyers for the women, of Pasadena firm Hadsell Stormer and Renick, asked that it be dismissed on the grounds that it was meant to intimidate their clients. Last week, Yerushalmi filed a brief in Orange County Superior Court defending the countersuit on the grounds that it was based on the trespassing allegation, rather than the lawsuit itself.

“The actual behavior that we’re suing them for is not their lawsuit,” Yerushalmi said in a phone interview. “It’s not their speech on social media about how terribly they were treated. It was simply for not abiding by our policy and refusing to leave until the police came.”

Yerushalmi also has alleged that the suit against his client is illogical in part because one of the owners — the one who authorized the Laguna Beach location to call the police on April 22 — is herself a Muslim woman. The chain was founded by Shallom and Jilla Berkman, a married couple from Jewish and Islamic backgrounds, respectively.

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