SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - An African-American family came to Sarasota for a relaxing vacation. Instead, family members say they were victims of a racially insensitive slur at their upscale hotel when someone left a racist note in their room.
The family claims it's a case of "vacationing while black."
It happened at the Art Ovation Hotel on North Palm in downtown Sarasota. The hotel just opened earlier this year, marketing itself as Sarasota's signature hotel of the arts. They also have a rooftop bar that has become pretty popular on the Suncoast. But one family says the hotel dropped the ball when it comes to hospitality.
"This is something in 2018 you don't expect this kind of thing to happen," Frank Davis said.
Davis, the president and CEO of The Horizon Group, says he and his family left the room to have breakfast and go shopping. When they returned, he noticed a note placed inside a lamp next to the bed.
"And I went and looked at the lamp and looked at the note and was shocked. The note says, 'You're a n*****.'"
Davis says it's the first time he's experienced racism like this since the 1960s. His family took immediate action and confronted the general manager and even called Sarasota Police, who filed a report, but Davis says they took no action.
"They basically touted that it was a free speech incident and not a formal criminal matter."
The hotel offered a free night stay, according to Davis, but his family declined saying they no longer felt safe staying there.
"Who knows what other kind of actions that individual who clearly knew we were there was capable of," Davis said. "Which is why we decided to relocate and find additional lodging for the remainder of our stay."
Davis says he believes whoever did this had access to the room. "That is either the hotel staff or someone who bamboozled the hotel staff in letting them have access to my room for some unknown reason."
And while the incident has left a bad taste in Davis' mouth, he says his family will still vacation in Sarasota as they have for years.
"We need to promote a better tommorow by holding ourselves accountable and clearly whoever wrote that note did not hold themselves to a higher standard," Davis said.
ABC7 Sarasota reached out to Art Ovation. The general manager, Matthew Simone, released this statement:
"We apologize for this guest's experience. We remain committed to providing an environment where all feel welcome. Allegations such as this are very concerning to us. The matter is being actively investigated and appropriate actions will be taken based on the findings. Hotel leadership has engaged with the guest and we have extended our apologies. In addition, the hotel will be reinforcing its sensitivity training with associates at all levels. Our corporate team has contacted the guest and apologized as well."
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