Restaurant owner says O.J. Simpson just not welcome

By Scott Harvey

(LOUISVILLE) -- Louisville rolled out the red carpet for a lot of celebrities in town during Derby week, but O.J. Simpson wasn't welcome at one restaurant, and the eatery's refusal to serve the man who was acquitted of killing his former wife and here companion is causing some controversy. WAVE 3's Scott Harvey has the details.

The general manager for Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse in Louisville, says that Simpson showed up at around 10 p.m. Derby eve, after the Kentucky Oaks. He says Simpson didn't have a reservation but demanded to be seated.

The owner, Jeff Ruby, said he then approached Simpson at his table, "the same table that Nick Lachey had just sat at, and had just left. And I walked over to him, and I sat at the table, and I guess he was waiting for the rest of his party. There might have been one other person.

And I said: 'I'm not serving you. He looked at me ... dumbfounded and I repeated. I said: 'I'm not serving you.'"

Ruby says at that point Simpson got up from his seat and began to leave peacefully, although his girlfriend did protest. Ruby later told us he asked Simpson to leave out of respect for the families of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman.

"I feel bad for the Goldman family and the Brown family," Ruby said. "He ruined their lives. I may have ruined his Derby, but that doesn't bother me. I'm OK with that."

But it's not OK with the Rev. Louis Coleman with Louisville's Justice Resource Center. He says Ruby's refusal to serve Simpson violates the Public Accommodation Law. Coleman has sent a letter to the Louisville Human Relations Commission alleging racial discrimination, and asking the commission file an official complaint against the restaurant.

"We just feel that actions should be taken against this owner, so that this cannot be done to any other human being," Coleman said. He and several other people picketed the restaurant on Wednesday.

It is against the law to refuse to serve a customer based on race, but Emily Riggshartlage, an attorney with the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights says there are situations when a business owner can legally decline to serve someone.

"A business owner can refuse service if it's based on a personal reason," Riggshartlage said, "as long as the refusal of service is not based on race, color, national origin, religion or disability."

The commission will look at the letter and then decide if a complaint will be filed. If a complaint is filed, an investigation will follow.

"Upon investigation, there would have to be some evidence that the ill treatment was based on discrimination," Riggshartlage said.

Simpson was welcomed at another restaurant, Basa Modern Vietnamese Cuisine, on Thursday. The co-owner, Steven Ton, said he tries to treat everyone equally. "I try to treat everyone like family when they are here. I treated him just like I did everyone else."

Ton also said none of the other customers complained about Simpson's presence.

Simpson, a Heisman Trophy winner, has starred in several movies and has been inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. He was found not guilty of killing his wife and Goldman in 1995, but was later found liable in a civil trial and ordered to pay millions to the families of Brown and Goldman.

He made headlines recently when he reportedly accepted money from to write a book called "If I Did It" -- a hypothetical account of how he would have committed the murders. The book and a television interview were later canceled after public outcry.

Online Reporter: Scott Harvey

Online Producer: Michael Dever