By Freedom Newspapers
Jeff Ruby’s restaurants are the kinds of places people go to spend an evening with friends and sometimes bump into someone famous.
Ruby, a longtime Cincinnati restaurateur, works hard to maintain his company’s reputation for fine steaks and seafood and providing a great place for customers to relax and enjoy themselves.
So it’s easy for some to understand why he got upset recently when an excited customer told him O.J. Simpson and his entourage were in the dining room.
It wasn’t the first time Simpson had dined in one of Ruby’s restaurants. Simpson and Ruby go back many years, and Simpson reportedly was a regular before the 1994 slayings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. Before the killings, Ruby even had a photo of Simpson and himself hanging on the wall.
But Ruby doesn’t like the way Simpson has behaved in the intervening years and was especially turned off by Simpson’s aborted book deal last year. He decided he wanted no more of the NFL Hall of Famer’s business.
I didn’t want to serve him because of my convictions of what he’s done to those families,” Ruby told reporters Tuesday. “The way he continues to torture the lives of those families … with his behavior, attitude and conduct.”
When he learned Simpson was in his Louisville, Ky., restaurant on May 4, Ruby asked him and his 13 friends to leave. Simpson and Co. left quietly and without causing a scene. The other diners rose and gave Ruby a round of applause.
“I’m putting myself in the shoes of the Brown and Goldman families. To have people worship this guy and want his autograph … not in my restaurants,” Ruby said.
You might think that would be the end of the story; a business owner refused service to someone he would rather not have in his restaurant, despite the patron’s fame. You’d be wrong.
A small contingent of local civil rights activists gathered outside the restaurant the next day, complaining about the treatment Simpson received. That’s no surprise. Those who make a living decrying racial injustice tend to see it in every situation in which a minority is singled out, even if race had nothing to do with it. As the old saying goes, when your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
Treating people differently because of the color of their skin is not only wrong, it’s wrong-headed. But Ruby’s actions clearly had nothing to do with Simpson’s skin color. And he’s within his rights as a property owner, in our opinion, to deny Simpson service if he chooses.
Ruby lost a sizable chunk of business when he refused to serve Simpson. That’s not something a good businessman does lightly, but sometimes people have to stand by their principles. Simpson apparently isn’t the kind of person Ruby wants associated with his restaurants.
Regardless of what one thinks of Simpson’s innocence or guilt, booting him from the restaurant is Ruby’s right, as long as it’s not based on race.
Simpson’s lawyer, Yale Galanter, has been threatening a lawsuit and he may try to have Ruby’s liquor license pulled, because he says race was a factor in Ruby’s actions. “He screwed with the wrong guy, he really did,” Galanter told reporters a few days after the incident.
Good luck with that, counselor. After the Simpson party left that night, Ruby hosted Michael Jordan and Star Jones.