MEMPHIS —  The owners of Flight Restaurant & Wine Bar in Downtown Memphis and Southern Social in Germantown say an investigation will be launched after a barrage of social media posts accused both restaurants of racism and sexism.

“We have learned of accusations of discriminatory behavior at Flight,” Russ Graham, co-owner of Flight and Southern Social, told the Commercial Appeal. “These accusations were posted online, and we are committed to determine their validity. We take all allegations of discriminatory behavior seriously and refuse to tolerate this type of behavior at our restaurant. To the extent that we learn that any of these accusations are true, these employees will be terminated immediately.”

Graham went on to say that he takes the “mere appearance of impropriety” seriously and will work to find out if any actions within the restaurant violate either the law or the standards of the restaurant.

“Flight will continue to serve this entire community to the best of our ability, and we hope you will trust us in the future,” he added.

Graham co-owns four restaurants — Flight, Southern Social, Porch & Parlor in Midtown and Coastal Fish Company in Shelby Farms Park — with Tom Powers. He said a similar investigation will be conducted at Southern Social.

While Flight and Southern Social were criticized on social media, the bulk of the criticism was directed at Flight. More than a dozen people, many of whom posted anonymously but identified themselves as former employees, said it was customary to seat Black patrons either in the back of the restaurant or upstairs so they would not be in view of people walking by on the street.

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The social media posts also accused the restaurants of discriminatory hiring practices that kept Black employees out of positions that would require customer interaction.

It’s unclear who will conduct the investigation. Though Graham said he takes the accusations seriously, his own behavior was repeatedly questioned in the social media firestorm.

Desiree Stennett covers economic development and business at The Commercial Appeal. She can be reached at, 901-529-2738 or on Twitter: @desi_stennett.

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