Police officer & high school principal accuse Memphis restaurant of racial profiling

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Humiliated, shocked, and denied - all emotions a police officer said he felt when he and his family were asked to leave a Memphis restaurant over the weekend because his party allegedly smelled like marijuana.

The couple, a local law enforcement officer and high school principal, said a manager asked them to leave the restaurant Saturday evening for smelling like marijuana. But several other employees said they didn’t smell a thing.

The family said they believe the manager’s senses had more to do with race than odor.

“I don’t plan on patronizing this establishment anymore,” said Marcus Mosby.

Mosby told FOX13 that he and his family were racially profiled by a manager at Houston’s Restaurant on Poplar Avenue Saturday evening.

“She said, ‘There’s a strong odor of marijuana coming from your party in this area.’ I said, ‘Ma’am, we don’t smoke marijuana. You’re mistaken.’ She said, ‘I’ve gotten complaints. People have called and said they smell.’ I said, ‘Ma’am, no one has walked past us but you,’” said Mosby.

Mosby, a police officer for nearly 28 years, and his wife, a high school principal, said they felt humiliated.

“You would think when I advised her of my occupation, my wife’s occupation, you would think she would reassess what she thought. She didn’t want to hear it. She said, ‘You still have to leave,’” said Mosby.

Mosby said he and his family refused to leave and got a second opinion. They were then seated, but Mosby had more questions for the manager who initially denied them access.

“I said, ‘Why did you just racially profile us?’ She said, ‘I’m sorry. That was just a bad mistake.’ I said, ‘How did you smell something no one else smelled?’ She just kept apologizing,” said Mosby.

Mosby shared his story on Facebook and learned his wasn’t the only Black family asked to leave the restaurant for allegedly smelling like marijuana.

FOX13 visited Houston’s to get answers. After asking to speak to a manager, our crew was kicked off the property by security.

“She singled us out. I feel like we were racially profiled,” said Mosby.

“When patronizing a business, that business owner has a lot of leeway on who he or she wants in their business,” said attorney Van Turner.

While investigating this story, we learned that other businesses in the area have signs posted saying you will be turned away if your party smells like marijuana.

“Say they say they’re kicking you out (of) the restaurant because you smell like marijuana, but it’s really because of your race or your gender or your sexual preference, or your religion. Then yes, that is very much a violation of the law,” said Turner.

Turner said it’s best to be sure before making accusations because this could open businesses up to lawsuits.

“To make that sort of accusation is very harmful. And I’ve heard of other issues in the past with Houston’s and other restaurants in the past,” Turner said.

FOX13 sent an email to the Houston’s General Manager.

The reply was: “Mr. Mosby dined with us Saturday with his family. When we detect the strong presence of marijuana with arriving guests, we do refuse service as the odor can affect others’ dining. We made a mistake in attributing the odor to Mr. Mosby’s party and apologized. We were happy to welcome him in and take care of his experience on us on Saturday.”