Southampton Uses Police State Tactics Against Diner’s ‘Hispanic Night,’ Owners Say

     CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CN) – Anti-Latino bias is so endemic in the Town of Southampton government that it conducted “a series of raids” at a longtime restaurant, on bogus charges, to punish its owners for holding a weekly “Hispanic Night” with Latino music, to draw a Latino crowd, owners of the Hampton Bays Diner claim in Federal Court.

     Plaintiffs Frank and Maria Vlahadamis say they have run their diner for more than 25 years. They claim that “within the Town of Southampton there exists a strong anti-Hispanic and anti-Latino sentiment which is harbored by persons including, but not limited to, officials within the Town of Southampton government.”
     “Motivated by such anti-Hispanic sentiment, under virtually any circumstance within which persons of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity gather together within the Town of Southampton, Town officials undertake affirmative actions intended to disburse (sic – recte: disperse) such gatherings, and to prevent such Hispanic personal from gathering again in the future.”
     The Vlahadamises say the Town, its Police Department, and the New York State Division of Alcohol Beverage Control retaliated for their “Hispanic Night” with repeated raids on trumped up charges, “to prevent the plaintiffs from continuing to draw Hispanics into their restaurant, and to punish them for doing so in the first instance … and to thereafter attempt to induce the New York State Liquor Authority to revoke the plaintiffs’ state-issued liquor license, based upon such trumped-up charges.
     “After trumping up a series of false violations against the plaintiffs, the defendants filed formal complaints with the New York State Liquor Authority, precipitating not one, but two hearings before an administrative law judge. In two separate and distinct proceedings, and after full hearings in each, the administrative law judge determined that virtually all of the charges initiated by the defendants were void of merit, and hence were not sustained.
     “Upon learning that the trumped-up charges were dismissed, the defendants became enraged, and they proceeded to enlist two employees of the New York State Liquor Authority (John Does Nos. 8 and 9) to accompany a police sergeant, defendant (James) Kiernan, to the plaintiffs’ restaurant for the purpose of securing a written ‘confession’ from the plaintiffs, which the defendants now intend to use to finally convince the state liquor authority to revoke the plaintiffs’ liquor license.
     “As directed by the defendants, the two State Liquor Authority employees and the sergeant barged into the plaintiffs’ restaurant, unleashed a curse-laden verbal barrage upon the plaintiffs, wrote a completely fabricated ‘confession,’ and forced one of the plaintiffs to sign it, under threat that if the plaintiff did not sign it, they would ‘padlock’ the plaintiffs’ restaurant for the entire Memorial Day weekend, the most lucrative weekend in the plaintiffs’ business.
     “Armed with this coerced confession, the defendants are now seeking to induce yet a third set of formal charges to be brought against the plaintiffs by the State Liquor Authority. In undertaking these efforts, the defendants were motivated solely by the fact that the plaintiffs were catering to Hispanic customers, and openly encouraging Hispanic customers to patronize their restaurant.”
     The complaint cites New York Times stories dating back three years that reported on Southampton’s “escalation in a wave of crackdowns driven by complaints against immigrants at every level of government,” “anti-Hispanic hate mongers,” “racial segregation and housing discrimination,” and threats against the mayor from anti-Hispanic protesters.
     The plaintiffs demand punitive damages for constitutional violations and malicious prosecution. They are represented by Andrew Campaneli of Mineola, N.Y.

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