SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A Travelodge desk clerk refused to let musicians with prepaid reservations check into their rooms, telling them, "We don't take credit cards from black people," Grammy-winning musician Leo Nocentelli claims in court.
Nocentelli, lead guitarist and songwriter for The Meters, claims the Travelodge employee refused to buzz him and his two bandmates into the hotel lobby, making them talk through the security window.
Unlike Nocentelli's sole white bandmate, who checked in earlier, the three black men were each told to put down $100 cash deposits for "incidentals," Nocentelli says in his Sept. 30 lawsuit in Superior Court.
Nocentelli, who has recorded with Stevie Wonder and Bonnie Raitt, protested.
He says he promised not to use the phone in the room, even showing that he had an iPhone, but says the clerk demanded the deposits.
The manager of the venue where the band was playing arrived to sort things out, but the Travelodge employee asked him "why he sent 'these guys' to the hotel instead of the 'white guys' he usually sent," Nocentelli says in the lawsuit.
The clerk said he would not take a credit card from "those people," and the manager asked what he meant by "those people," according to the complaint.
"The employees said, 'Black people. We don't take credit cards from black people,'" according to the complaint.
The manager called the police, "who stated they had been called to the hotel on previous occasions for the same reason," Nocentelli claims.
He adds: "The experience was particularly traumatizing in that it evoked memories from Mr. Nocentelli's childhood, growing up in the segregated South."
Nocentelli seeks damages for discrimination, civil rights violations, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and negligence.
He is represented by Benjamin Schonbrun with Schonbrun Desimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman, of Venice.
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