SIESTA KEY, Fla. - Discrimination at the Daiquiri Deck? That's what one customer is claiming after he, his wife and their 5-week old child were thrown out of the restaurant for refusing to leave. But the owner of the popular Siesta Key establishment stands by the decision, saying the family violated one of the restaurant's strict policies.
It all unfolded last Saturday night. Brandon Daniels, who is a Sarasota attorney, decided to grab a bite at the restaurant with his wife and infant child. When they arrived, the family decided to sit in the bar area.
"The downstairs was relatively full and it seemed like there was a lot of commotion. The upstairs seemed sparse," said Daniels.
When the family sat down, they were told by a bouncer and two managers that it is against the law to have someone under the age of 21 in that area of the restaurant.
"I said, 'Do you honestly think my 5-week-old son is going to be consuming alcoholic beverages?'"
What the staff members told Daniels is inaccurate. It's not against the law, yet it is against company policy. "It's for the safety of the public. If a child is in that environment, I don't think it's conducive to a healthy business atmosphere," said restaurant owner, Russell Matthes.
Daniels refused to leave. That's when staff members called 911.
Minutes later, Sarasota County Sheriff's Deputies escorted Daniels out of the restaurant. If he returns to the establishment over the next year, he could be arrested.
"It was embarrassing for us to be there and then being thrown out with a 5-week-old just because we wanted to utilize a table that served food in a different part of the restaurant," said Daniels.
He says he feels discriminated against. "I find it appalling that a restaurant in this area that tries to reach out and tries to be community-based would reject a family just because they feel it's a bar when it's really not. They serve food all the time at the tables we were at," said Daniels.
Matthes could not disagree more with Daniels. "It's not discrimination if you are keeping the public safe. We are responsible. We are a liquor license holder. We are responsible to create an environment that is fun, enjoyable and safe," he said.
Daniels admits there were other tables throughout the restaurant he could have sat at, but chose not to because of "commotion, hustle and bustle and moving around." His baby was fast asleep when they arrived.
Daniels says he would like an apology from the owner, and is not ruling out the possibility of taking legal action against the restaurant for refusing service.