Urth Caffe in Laguna Countersues Muslim Customers

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Updated subsequent to the print edition, Friday, June 24.

The Urth Caffe in Laguna Beach responded to a lawsuit filed by seven Muslim customers claiming religious discrimination by countersuing, alleging the patrons conspired to conduct a defamatory social media and public relations campaign, court records show.

The countersuit, filed Wednesday, June 22, in Orange County Superior Court, lays out 15 claims, describing the lawsuit as a “meritless” effort to “extort public apologies” and other concessions.

Dan Stormer, a Pasadena lawyer, filed a lawsuit against Urth Caffe in May on behalf of Sarah Khalil Farsakh and her friends, who claimed they were ousted from the popular Laguna Beach restaurant in an act of religiously motivated discrimination, a violation of a state civil rights act.

An attorney initially hired by Urth Caffe tried to mediate discussions by calling the Counsel on American Islamic Relations in Anaheim, Stormer said Friday. “We have never approached them nor do we intend to,” he said. “We intend to have a jury of our peers tell them in no uncertain terms that discrimination will not be tolerated.  I look forward to examining them in the crucible of trial.”

Urth Caffe is now represented David Yerushalmi, of Chandler, Ariz., co-founder and senior counsel of the American Freedom Law Center. “This lawsuit claiming religious discrimination is a fraud and a hoax on the courts and the media,” he says in a statement.

Urth Caffe’s suit alleges that the seven women claiming discrimination were “aggressors and guilty of trespass,” the court records show. Yerushalmi pointed out that many Muslim and customers of Arab descent make up the base of Urth Caffe’s patrons on Friday night. “Not surprisingly, many of these customers are women wearing hijabs. None of these other Muslim women was asked to leave,” the statement noted.

The women who sued were asked to leave only to comply with the café’s 45-minute stay policy in the outside patio, the statement says.

Farsakh posted a video of herself narrating a walk through the restaurant on Friday, April 22, showing many unoccupied tables and questioning the manager’s order instructing her party to depart.

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