|By Lisa Haarlander, The Buffalo News, N.Y.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Apr. 30, 2004 - Some community groups are not booking future events at the Adam's Mark Hotel in Buffalo, but not going as far as a boycott, to protest the firing of a black manager.
The Adam's Mark ended Raynard Lawler's employment as an interim general manager earlier this year because of a difference in opinion over how the hotel should be run and performance issues, the hotel said.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Coalition for Justice and Equality believe Lawler was fired without good reason and held a news conference Thursday at the Mount Olive Baptist Church on East Delavan Avenue. The coalition is a group of community and religious groups that came together to protest the Adam Mark's treatment of Lawler.
"We have seen no evidence that Mr. Lawler was given sufficient time or internal support to develop a strong local market even though hundreds of thousands of dollars came to the hotel as a result of his being named general manager," said Frank B. Mesiah, president of the Buffalo chapter of the NAACP. "Sales were, in fact, on the rise as a result of Mr. Lawler's presence and broad involvement in the community. It is possible that the corporation did not like to see an increase in use by African-American groups."
The hotel chain, which is based in St. Louis, Mo., said food and drink sales to African-Americans did increase under Lawler's management, but the hotel's overall revenue from rooms it booked and other sources continued to drop, said Tommie Monroe, vice president of corporate affairs who spent three days in Buffalo meeting with community groups.
"We have an obligation to the employees who are there, many of whom are black," he said. "Boycotting the hotel hurts those black families."
Lawler, who is now living with his family in Atlanta, said he was aware before he was hired that the Adam's Mark had struggled with allegations of racism.
"They are not ready for me or anyone with my background," he said, declining to comment further.
The NAACP boycotted the chain in 2000 and 2001. Fred Kummer Jr., CEO of HBE Corp., which owns the Adam's Mark chain, agreed to pay $1.1 million to settle allegations that the Adam's Mark in Daytona Beach, Fla., discriminated against black guests in 1999.
Still, some groups are shunning the hotel.
The Buffalo affiliate of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS earlier this month moved a luncheon for 250 people from the Adam's Mark to the Hyatt.
"We had met with Ray (Lawler) and set up great things," said Rev. James A. Lewis III, vice chairman of the local organization. "We were able to move things in protest from the Adam's Mark to the Hyatt."
Other events such as a gospel music convention in August could not be moved because of contracts organizers had signed with the Adam's Mark.
But going forward, groups may avoid using the Adam's Mark, said Rev. C. E. Edgerton of the Calvary Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and a member of the African Methodist Ministerial Alliance, a group of about 30 churches that is sponsoring an event to celebrate fatherhood at the Adam's Mark in June.
"We will follow through on events we have signed commitments, but we would not schedule any event at the Adam's Mark in the future," Rev. Edgerton said.
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(c) 2004, The Buffalo News, N.Y. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.