Verbal shots fired over both bows after Urth lawsuit
By Stu Saffer with contributions by Maggi Henrikson
Seven Muslim women from Orange County filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against Urth Caffe in North Laguna amid much fanfare Tuesday. They claim that management at Urth ordered them to leave the restaurant on April 22 because they were wearing head scarves (hijabs) marking them as Muslim.
The women, a party of seven, which had been seated at an outside table, made a video of the restaurant after they were ordered to leave, which showed a number of empty tables inside the restaurant.
The eatery has a policy of turning tables 45 minutes after being served during peak hours and it was this policy that created the incident.
A manager asked the women if they were through eating and then asked them to leave. The lawsuit alleges that customers seated at other tables that had been occupied for a longer period were not asked to leave.
When they refused, police were called to assist them out of the restaurant, which happened (in keeping with standard police protocol with a bona fide business) without incident after the group had paid its bill, police said.
Urth management has refused to comment on the situation since the lawsuit was filed and a call to the owner, Shallom Berkman, was not returned. Prior to the lawsuit, it was learned that the manager at the eatery at the time reported the situation to Berkman’s wife, Jilla, a Muslim, who was at the location. She instructed the manager to call the police when told the women had acted rudely toward employees.
Urth Caffe opened last September and has been a popular OC Muslim-American spot and a place where traveling Middle Easterners often visit.
In news reports this week, a spokesperson for the American-Islamic Relations Council said the actions of Urth Caffe were obviously driven by anti-Muslim sentiments.
Urth Caffe retained American Freedom Law Center and its co-founder David Yerushalmi to file a counter suit against the seven plaintiffs for trespassing. Yerushalmi said Wednesday, “Urth Caffe did not discriminate against the women who have filed this fraudulent lawsuit.”
He referred to Sara Farsakh, 29, a student, as the lead-plaintiff and an activist for Palestinian causes.
Yerushalmi has been called “…an unabashed critic of Islam…”