The owner of a clothing and shoe store in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood has been sued by Massachusetts' attorney general for allegedly discriminating against customers based on race and national origin.
The complaint against The Tannery on Boylston Street was filed Wednesday in Suffolk Superior Court, according to AG Maura Healey.
The complaint alleges that store owner and manager, Hicham Ali "Sam" Hassan, violated the state's Public Accommodations Law and Consumer Protection Act by denying service to an African American man and a Middle Eastern woman shopping in the store on two different occasions based on their race, national origin, and/or immigration status.
According to the complaint, an African American customer attempted to enter The Tannery in December 2017 to shop about 20 minutes before the store closed. When the customer entered the store, Hassan allegedly walked up to him and asked, "What's up brother man?", in an alleged effort to keep him from fully entering the store.
When the victim asked Hassan why he was denied entry while other white patrons were allowed to enter the store, Hassan allegedly said, "he did not want [his] kind in [the] store."
According to the AG, Hassan also implied that the victim did not have enough money to shop at The Tannery and directed him to leave.
In March 2017, Hassan allegedly asked a customer of Middle Eastern descent where she was from. Instead of helping the woman, Hassan allegedly told her that he did not trust immigrants and he was a supporter of President Donald Trump.
"I love Trump! I am glad he is going to get rid of all the immigrants," Hassan allegedly said to the woman.
The AG’s Office says that the two experiences are examples of a pattern of discriminatory treatment by Hassan.
"Here in Massachusetts, it’s illegal for a business to refuse to serve someone, to refuse to do business with someone because of their race," Healey said at a news conference. "We believe it is a pattern. That this is not the first time. They seem not to have learned their lesson, this business owner continues it seems to engage in conduct that violates consumer laws, that violates anti-discrimination laws."
The AG's office is requesting the court to award the victims with compensatory damages and assess civil penalties in addition to making The Tannery comply with The Massachusetts Public Accommodations Law. It's illegal for a business that solicits or accepts the patronage of the general public to distinguish among customers on the basis of their race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
People shopping in the Back Bay area on Wednesday were shocked to hear of the complaint.
"That’s ridiculous. I think people have the right to buy what they wish and if a store like this doesn’t want to do it then maybe a store like this shouldn’t exist in our tapestry of commerce," said Back Bay shopper Dee Kumar.
"It’s always hard to hear things like this, especially when it happens to people who are similar to me because I know that could've happened to me easily," added shopper Demetrius Wilson.
It wasn't immediately clear if Hassan has an attorney.