Former Detroit Lions Hall of Famer Lem Barney and his wife are suing a Detroit-area pizza chain for racial discrimination after being refused service.
The lawsuit filed in Detroit's federal court Monday says Lem and Jacqueline Barney went to Happy's Pizza in Commerce Township Nov. 2. The lawsuit says that when they tried to order, the manager told them to go to Happy's Southfield location because "they would be more at home there."
The Barneys are black. Southfield has a majority black population and Commerce Township is mostly white.
The lawsuit says the Barneys called the police. The restaurant manager told an officer that the Barneys were denied service because workers were preparing for a corporate catering event.
In a release, Happy's Pizza said the store was not open, but the doors were, because employees and contractors were in-and-out of the building doing food and equipment testing. According to the company, they were preparing to open the next week.
According to Happy's, they had about 30 people in the store on Friday, but employees said it wasn't open and referred to the two closest stores, one in Farmington Hills and another in Pontiac.
In their statement, they say:
Happy’s Pizza does not discriminate against or refuse service to patrons under any circumstances on the basis of race, gender, or religion. The franchise started on a busy corner on Detroit’s Northeast side, and today is a leader in charitable giving in all of its communities and has supported the foundations and causes of numerous organizations and professional athletes in Detroit.