A black businessman who faced intense neighborhood opposition to his plans for a restaurant featuring live entertainment in Brooklyn Park has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city.
Rodney DeWalt had wanted to open Gossip in the Creekside Plaza Shopping Center on 85th Avenue, a few blocks from City Hall. The City Council unanimously rejected DeWalt’s application in April after dozens of neighbors raised questions about noise, parking and public safety.
In the lawsuit filed Dec. 14, DeWalt said he was deprived of the “same right to make and enforce contracts as that of white and Asian citizens.”
DeWalt said he picked Brooklyn Park because one-third of its population is black, but was confronted with hostile residents who said the restaurant, which would be open until 2 a.m. on some nights, was not compatible with the neighborhood.
“This supposition is obviously based on a stereotype of African-Americans being noisy, messy, disruptive and violent,” DeWalt alleges in the complaint.
DeWalt said a restaurant currently operates across the street from his proposed location, evidence that Gossip could have blended in with the neighborhood.
DeWalt, who now lives in Ankeny, Iowa, said during a phone interview Friday that the city was dismissive of his plans from the start. He said he was planning a menu of pasta, chicken and salad with an array of music and comedy that appeals to his largely black clientele.
In the lawsuit, DeWalt indicates he has owned or invested in more than 20 restaurants and nightclubs across the country. One club registered in DeWalt’s name in Portland, Ore., closed after a triple shooting outside of the club in November 2013, according to news reports.
“They saw one chink in my armor and that was in Portland and they threw it up,” DeWalt said.
DeWalt said he has filed suit against the city of Portland.
The city of Brooklyn Park said it stands by its April decision.