A Minneapolis man who is black says he was singled out and asked to pay in advance at a Brooklyn Center buffet, contrary to the restaurant's standard practice.
Vanlice "Vii" Washington said that when he visited Ocean Buffet early Saturday afternoon, the Chinese-American manager demanded he pay before getting his food while other customers streamed by him to dine first and pay later.
He was so frustrated, he said, that he called police and posted about the episode on Facebook. It unleashed a social media torrent, including a stream of bad online reviews for the restaurant on Shingle Creek Parkway.
Washington, a 32-year-old entrepreneur and IT specialist, said he had eaten at the buffet at least 20 times before and was never asked to pay before eating.
"It's so sad when minorities discriminate against each other," said Washington, who was born in Liberia and came to the United States as a child.
"We are both immigrants and minorities. It's already hard enough out there. For them to do what they are doing is ridiculous and wrong."
The manager, Fang Chen, said she asked some young customers — including Washington — to pay in advance after having problems with a series of "dine and dash" customers. She said she apologized to Washington when he told her he was in his 30s.
"I do ask young kids to pay first. I already apologized and said I am sorry," said Chen, who added she thought her less-than-perfect English didn't help the situation. "He was mad at me and he called the police officer."
The restaurant has been receiving angry and sometimes profane calls, as well as hostile posts on Facebook and online review sites.
"I never told people to boycott the place, but I had to post it," Washington said. "I was so angry because she laughed at me after the cops left."
Brooklyn Center police confirmed that they responded to Washington's call around 2 p.m. on Saturday. Officers talked to Washington and the manager and determined it was a civil matter.
Washington said he did sit down and eat, peeling off a $50 bill to pay for the food shortly after he began.
"Sad day for me ... I just lost one of my favorite buffets to eat at," Washington wrote in his Facebook post on the incident. "The food is still good but now I just can't eat here ever again."
Washington said he also took a photo of himself at the restaurant to document the incident because he knew doubters would say he was "dressed like a hoodlum."
"It is sad. You have to cover all your bases," he said.
Shannon Prather • 612-673-4804