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Urth Caffe Reaches Discrimination Settlement With Ousted Muslim Women

Urth Caffe in Laguna Beach forcibly removed seven women in 2016

Urth Caffe
Urth Caffe
Mona Holmes is a reporter for Eater Los Angeles and a regular contributor to KCRW radio. She has covered restaurants, dining, and food culture since 2016. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for a Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award.

The ACLU Foundation of Southern California announced a settlement between a group of Muslim women and Urth Caffe last week. Urth’s Laguna Beach location removed seven women from their table back in 2016. The women felt the restaurant targeted them because they were wearing Muslim clothing.

The settlement terms appear similar to the Starbucks incident in Philadelphia, where two men were unjustly arrested while waiting for a colleague to arrive. Urth Caffe’s settlement requires the company to host diversity trainings for employees, and institute a fair seating policy. According to the ACLU Southern California website, “The restaurant chain also agreed to open its Laguna Beach location all day on June 16 with free drinks and desserts for all customers in a public celebration of Eid al-Fitr, the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.”

Urth Caffe drew criticism after the 2016 incident, when the seven women met for dinner at the Urth Caffe in Laguna Beach. Six of the women were wearing traditional Muslim headscarves, or hijabs. They dined on the patio for an hour until a manager asked them to leave, citing a 45-minute seating limit for the table. The women noticed adjacent empty tables, and pointed out other customers that had arrived before them who weren’t asked to leave. The manager called security and the Laguna Beach Police, who told the women to leave the premises before they finished dessert and coffee.

Urth Caffe dug themselves a deeper hole when the company countersued the women. Urth’s owners hired a controversial lawyer who accused the women of extortion and “civilizational jihad.” Urth’s then attorney, David Yerushalmi, is listed on the Southern Poverty Law Center website as an “anti-Muslim activist who is a leading proponent of the idea that the United States is threatened by the imposition of Muslim religious law, known as Shariah.”

The law firm of Hadsell Stormer & Renick LLP and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California represented the women.