I reached out to Bella Vita and the organizers of Rehab for statements about last Sunday's events referenced in Kyle Long's Cultural Manifesto column this week and originally reported on by Fox59. Here's a statement from Bella Vita proprietor, Henri B. Najem, in the form of a letter to Fox59.
To The Media
I was extremely disappointed with the story WXIN-59 chose to run Thursday evening June 19th under the trailer "CAUGHT ON TAPE: Indy man says Geist restaurant told him "no more black people allowed." - CLAIMS OF RACIAL DISCRIMMINATION.
Bella Vita takes serious issue with the accuracy and slant of WXIN's story on the incident. The repercussions of such an accusation for a fine dining restaurant can be catastrophic and merit a full complete and open investigation of the facts.
First and foremost, the individual, who declined to identify himself or allow his likeness to be used on camera, was not refused entrance to Bella Vita Ristorante.
He was refused admittance (albeit only temporarily) to an event at one of Bella Vita's facilities Promoted by Switch District Events - Bella Vita does not abdicate its responsibility for the safety of anyone on its premises. Federal, State and local laws mandate that maximum capacity levels be strictly followed. Once the beach area was at its maximum capacity, the security guard denied entrance to the complainant who was told several times before he turned on his video that the site had reached the maximum allowed patrons, and that no more attendees would be allowed entrance. The security manager, an African American, would've told your reporter if interviewed that the complainant became agitated, and berated the security officer repeating several times - "It's because I'm black" - witnesses corroborated that the complainant baited the security guard until he said "I do not care what you are - black, white, male, female - no one is getting in." The complainant simply refused to accept the fact he was not getting in and became extremely agitated - hence the need for security.
Several others were refused entrance into the event - some for dress code, others due to maximum occupancy. I have attached a photo of the event from the time at issue - you can see clearly the make-up of the crowd.
What makes the story so incredibly obtuse is that once the some of the patrons left, the complainant was admitted to the event and partied to the liberal end.
Bella Vita is reviewing its policy to make certain anyone who contracts for use of its facilities adheres to Bella Vita's strict policies against discrimination of any kind.
Bella Vita's diversity record is outstanding - it does not discriminate in either its patronage or hiring policies. It has been a leader in its diversity practices since its inception - one need only dine there to see the different ethnic, gender and cultural groups that make up its employees and patronage.
I urge you to correct your story or at least post this response on your website with the story that continues to accuse Bella Vita of racial discrimination daily. I would hope the facts that did not make it into your "scoop" would be given the same journalistic panache as your reporting of a complaint from a complainant who would not even tell us his name. I find it disappointing that the rush for your "exclusive" apparently outweighed getting all the facts - it was so newsworthy that taking the time to fully investigate fell by the wayside.
In America, the Constitution gives us the unalienable right to face our accusers.
I would have thought that WXIN's journalistic standards would prevent them from publishing one of the most damaging accusations possible from a person who refused to be identified at least until all the facts were in.
I have received numerous calls, texts and emails from our patrons (of all races and creeds) supporting Bella Vita and offering to go public as to Bella Vita's diversity practices and their disagreement with your accusations - I am proud of our restaurant and its role in our community and our patrons.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Henri B. Najem
Proprietor, Bella Vita Ristorante