Partners at Los Olas restaurant file discrimination suit against city

Red Door Asian Bistro owners say inspector made repeated racist remarks, gesture

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The city of Fort Lauderdale and one of its former inspectors are asking a federal judge to dismiss a discrimination lawsuit by two restaurant owners alleging racism against Asians.

The owners of Red Door Asian Bistro on Las Olas Boulevard filed the lawsuit shortly after opening in May 2018, alleging one city inspector repeatedly cited problems and issues that did not exist, while making racist comments about a Chinese Chef and owner of the establishment.

"(The inspector) would bring up something else, and then something else, and I’m like, ‘wow, there is really a pattern that there is discrimination, bias,'" restaurant partner Tony Asta said. "I don’t know; it didn't make sense."

The lawsuit details ugly comments Asta says he heard the city’s then-Mechanical Inspector Robert Gonzalez make, including "direct and subtle racist comments," often mocking the speech and mannerisms of Chef Zhi Yo Liu, including "slanting his eyes when referring to Liu."

"I was kind of taken back," Asta said. "I couldn't believe it."

(Read the full court filing here)

Fewer than two weeks after the lawsuit was filed, Gonzalez resigned in a short letter to his superior, without citing a reason.

Neither Fort Lauderdale officials nor Gonzalez responded to requests for comment. Gonzalez’s denial of the racist statements is part of the court filings.

"Everything Mr. Gonzalez did to put a roadblock to this business opening up turned out to be totally false, and he was found to be dead wrong and unfounded," Michael Pizzi, the restaurant owners’ attorney, said.

This week, Pizzi filed a response to the city’s request to dismiss the lawsuit, which includes a history of racism in the United States.

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