Jeff Ruby vs. OJ Simpson – Can A Business Serve and Refuse Customers At Will?

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We've had quite the shakeup here in Louisville recently as SteakHouse owner Jeff Ruby refused to serve OJ Simpson on the even of the Kentucky Derby. Ruby gives his reason for not serving Simpson as:

I didn't want to serve him because of my convictions of what he's done to those families," Ruby, owner of Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse, said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "The way he continues to torture the lives of those families … with his behavior, attitude and conduct."

Of course, the first thing that happened were some local protests and claims of racial discrimination, despite that fact that Ruby gave Simpson's table to Michael Jordan immediately after the incident.

It raises an interesting question about the rights of business owners in regards to their views. Can Ruby pick and choose who to serve? Can businesses in general discriminate against certain individuals as long as they don't discriminate against an entire category of people? I'm sure you can guess that, as a business pundit, I prefer to stand up for the rights of Jeff Ruby to do as he pleases with his business.

As a side note, I work almost directly across the street from Jeff Ruby's restaurant, and so far I haven't noticed any slowdown in business.

  • Clarenc Hanley

    AN ODE TO SATIRE. The story of a fallen icon who falls from honor to heel, from glory to satire. A satirical story about the trial of O.J. Simpson. The storytelling begins with the ode segueing into the history of the eight to nine month old trial. A trial that is soon fashioned into a sporting depiction of our jurisprudence system. The author does not in any way demean the honor of these families, but this is a good read for reading buffs. Following is a sample of the ode, and for your perusal, the book can be found at the following, google.com, amazon.com, or Barnes and Nobles: Put in ‘An Ode to Satire’ for your search.

    THE ODE
    MANY WERE CAUGHT UP IN THE MEDIA FRENZY
    SOAP OPERA BUFFS WERE ASKING WHAT TO DO
    WERE THEY TO RELINQUISH THINKING SOME OF THEIR THOUGHTS
    OR WOO THEIR FOOLISHNESS AND PURSUE

    SO EVERYONE PRANCED THROUGH THIS BALLAD OF SATIRE
    PRAYING THAT THEIR MINDS WOULD REMAIN FAIR
    THEY DECIPHERED THEIR THOUGHTS
    DO’S AND DARES THEY FOUGHT
    TRYING HARD TO SEPARATE LOVE HATE AND DESPAIR
    DESIRES OF MANY AND HOPES OF SOME
    CAUSED THEMES TO CONVEY HONESTY AND THOUGHT
    HISTORY WOULD HAVE IT AND TIME WOULD TELL
    VISIONARIES DENIED ACTUALITY WITH NAUGHT

    THE FINAL ODE
    (The following is four of 17 Stanza)
    THE ACCUSED HAD RAISED BOTH HANDS AND OPENED HIS GLOVED FIST
    PROCLAIMING ARTHRITIS WOULD EXONERATE HIM FROM ALL THIS
    BUT WHEN ALL WAS FINAL AND THE VERDICT WAS IN
    RHETORICAL BELLOWS RANG OUT AGAIN
    TAKE THE MONEY WAS SAID TAKE HIS FAME
    HOW SAD CRIED THE ACCUSED IT’S A CAPITALIST GAME
    PROCLAIMING THE TIME WOULD COME
    AND LIKEWISE THE TIME WOULD GO
    THE GAME BEING PLAYED
    WOULD HAUNT OTHERS ALSO.

    SOMEHOW, REMEMBERING A FORGIVING SAVIOR
    WAS ON A TALL MOUNTAIN SIDE
    HAD VIEWED THE LAND
    AS THE DEVIL HAUNTED HIM WITH SIGHS
    I OWN IT ALL
    WAS THE DEVILS POMPOUS CRY
    AND I’LL GIVE IT TO YOU
    IF YOU’LL COME OVER TO MY SIDE
    JUST PROMISE YOUR SOUL
    ASSURED THERE WOULD BE MORE
    AND I’LL GIVE IT ALL
    WAS THE DEVILS ENCORE

    AND I’LL GIVE YOU GREAT HONORS
    AND WORLDLY PRIDE
    JUST FOLLOW ME OVER
    COME OVER TO MY SIDE

    AND THEN THERE WAS BAILEY
    NOT TO FORGET HIS BELOVED FRIEND
    HATE CROPPED BETWEEN THE TWO
    CAUSING ONE TO TURN THE OTHER IN

  • MS

    This seems to be similar to “at will” employment. In states where this is the standard, it’s legal to fire someone for any reason other that race, religion, gender, etc.
    Using that as the criteria for customer-proprietor relationship seems to be ethical and (hopefully) legal.

  • My only comment would be that of being hypocritical – he refused OJ because of his knowledge and opinion of his behavior/acts. Now, there are plenty of people (much less well known of course) that will come through the door that are “abusers” or “criminals” in some way shape or form – but he has no knowledge of their acts. It is a slippery slope and one that I would personally choose to avoid.

  • mars

    I would hope it was not legal. But if you have negative laws in the US then it probably is. The problem is that it can be embarrasing to be turned away from a restaurant on the owners whim for anyone. This open it up to restaurant owners to refuse on the basis of religion, race, gender etc while making it difficult to prove. Also why should OJ suffer the prejudice of Ruby’s convictions and not the criminal laws? Does Ruby have better judgement than the criminal court? all of a sudden? OJ ought to pursue this if just to satisfy those with business and legal interests on how it would play out in the courts.