Olive Garden, NAACP investigating alleged racial discrimination at Evansville Restaurant

Local News

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – A national restaurant chain is looking into allegations of a racial incident at its restaurant in Evansville. Dozens of people took to social media over the weekend to respond to what may have happened at the Olive Garden on Green River Road.

Olive Garden hostess Amira Donahue says she was involved in the incident.

“She stood in the middle of the restaurant and started screaming at me in front of all of the customers,” said Donahue.

Two black employees claim they were targeted with racial discrimination. Donahue was the hostess on duty as the incident unfolded. She says a customer’s request for hot water turned into something ugly.

“But she asked for a server that wasn’t black and the manager complied and I do agree that was a bad decision at the moment but there was a better way that could have been handled,” Donahue said.  She said the woman’s actions didn’t stop there.

“The lady also made comments about me to another coworker saying that I am not family-friendly and that I should go work at a strip club instead of an Olive Garden,” Donahue said. “(She asked) am I even black, am I from here, am I from America, just like offhand comments like that and referring me to the ‘other one’. ”

Olive Garden spokesman Hunter Robinson says the company does not tolerate discrimination of any type and that senior leadership is investigating. The Evansville NAACP says it has not received a formal complaint but it is also investigating.

NAACP President Reverend Gerald Arnold said he is withholding judgment and he wants to make sure everyone’s voices are being heard.”It’s probably not going to be the culture because they have a very diverse staff and diverse clientele. I go there myself so we have to investigate those things,” Rev. Arnold said.

As for Donahue, she said she is still reeling from the pain and shocked at the events of that Saturday night dinner rush. She is hopeful that a positive change will come from this experience.

“I would never expect it to be so apparent in public like it’s 2020, not 1920 and I feel like it should take more than social media to get a problem like this out there,” Donahue said. 

The server involved in the incident isn’t emotionally ready for an interview, according to Donahue. 

Eyewitness News confirms the manager involved in this incident no longer works there.

As for the investigation, Olive Garden says it will continue to look into the matter.

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(This story was originally published on March 2, 2020.)

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