The latest allegation against HBE comes from five black patrons of the company's Daytona Beach, Florida, location. Filed on May 20 in Orlando, the suit alleges that the hotel required black guests attending the annual Black College Reunion to prepay the entire room rate, plus a $100 damage deposit and a $25 deposit for in-room phone service; denied them parking privileges; restricted the number of outside visitors; and forced reunion attendees to wear orange wristbands at all times.
HBE's packet includes a three-page outline of these allegations accompanied by Kummer's lengthy denial of each one, as well as a two-page fact sheet, two separate letters to the editor, positive testimonials from black community leaders involved in BCR and an invitation to contact Steven A. Williams at HBE's executive offices in suburban St. Louis, "in the spirit of maintaining open and ongoing dialogue regarding these issues."
"Discrimination is not good business," Williams tells Westword. "It's not good business, these types of things. It is not the policy of this company. We certainly don't support it nor do we say we are guilty in this case." The unusually extensive damage control "was primarily in our defense of the allegations," he adds. "We aren't really able to comment on them right now, so we are sending out some printed information."
Despite the spin, however, Adam's Mark has a problem, and it's not going away. In Jacksonville, Florida, where the city council recently approved $23 million in taxpayer incentives to help fund a new Adam's Mark, the hotel's history was fully brought to light only after the vote--and the information disturbed some councilmembers who said they should have been filled in earlier on the details of the discrimination lawsuits. Not that it would necessarily have made a difference: Denver's city council knew of the charges, and its members still approved a $24 million Denver Urban Renewal Authority subsidy to Kummer's hotel here.
"Those things tend to be discussed when you are seeking public money. It's a public business, and all kinds of things can happen when you deal with the public," Williams says.
Then he adds, "Don't quote me on that, though. I'm just an advertising guy. I'm just the guy they asked to put this together."