By P.C. Staff
The Florin Manzanar Pilgrimage Committee, which consists of the Florin JACL and Council on American Islamic Relations — Sacramento Valley, is embroiled in a dispute with the Back Alley Bowling, Bar and Grill in Bishop, Calif., over mistreatment and denied access stemming from an April 25 visit to the establishment.
As part of the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, a group of 15 Asian American and Muslim American young adults, in addition to older members and senior citizens, were denied service at Back Alley Bowl on three occasions on April 25.
Bowling alley employees told the group the establishment had a down computer system, though it remained fully open for business.
“The Florin JACL would like an apology from Back Alley Bowling for denying us service, a public commitment by the bowling alley to anti-discrimination policies and a welcome of diverse people,” said Brandon Miyasaki, a youth leader of Florin JACL who also helped coordinate the Florin Manzanar Pilgrimage bowling event. “We patiently waited for Back Alley Bowling to acknowledge these requests only to have them claim it was all a ‘misunderstanding’ and ‘they sincerely regret any misperceptions.’ After our investigation of first-hand accounts and a trail of negative reviews claiming discrimination, I think it’s fair to say that the Florin JACL alongside our supporters now have an even clearer understanding about how Back Alley Bowling operates, and that is the reason we still seek justice.”
Back Alley representatives failed to show at an agreed upon meeting on June 9 with committee members and instead issued a response from their lawyer.
The Florin Manzanar Pilgrimage Committee is currently examining all options in order to ensure that justice is served.
Following is the original Florin Manzanar Pilgrimage Committee letter that was sent to Back Alley Bowling as well as the establishment’s response from its lawyer, both are printed with the permission of the Florin Manzanar Pilgrimage Committee.
Dear Mr. Flesia, Ms. French and Ms. Favel:
The Florin Manzanar Pilgrimage Committee sponsored the Asian American and Muslim American young adult group denied service by Back Alley Bowling, Bar, and Grill employees in Bishop on the night of Saturday, April 25, 2015. This discrimination in public accommodations deeply offended us and denied our civil rights.
The Florin Manzanar Pilgrimage is a 10-year project of the Florin Japanese American Citizens League (Florin JACL) and the Council on American Islamic Relations-Sacramento Valley (CAIR-SV). Since our group has faced similar racism and bigotry at Back Alley Bowl in the past, this is particularly egregious. Fundamental changes need to be made.
This mistreatment is an insult to the 1,500 people, especially those senior travelers in our group imprisoned during WWII, who come annually to the area to visit Manzanar National Historic Site. They come to learn about America’s WWII concentration camps, the lessons for today, and to stand up against such ignorance and discrimination targeting innocent people.
Our investigation of the circumstances that day shows the following. Our group of 15 Asian American and Muslim American young adults, plus some older members and senior citizens, was denied service at Back Alley Bowl on 3 occasions on the night of April 25, 2015. They conducted themselves in a civil, reasonable manner at all times, offering workable options to bowl, despite alleged computer problems and shutting down the business early though posted hours were until 12 midnight.
About 9:45 pm the night of Saturday, April 25th a group of 8-10 Asian and Muslim Americans went to Back Alley Bowl to bowl. The “open” sign outside was lit and the establishment was operating. Three bowling alley lanes were open and lit with two of them occupied by a white family group. Some patrons were drinking at the bar and eating inside the restaurant.
When our group asked the young clerk if they could bowl he was flippant and rude. He claimed that the computer system was down and they couldn’t bowl. Though doubting a computer system could be down when people were still bowling, our group tried to find reasonable solutions. They asked that the computer be rebooted, offered to wait for a repair person to come, to use the vacant lane, wait for the family to finish, pay cash if the cash register was down, hang out buying food and beverages, or even just watch the family bowl. They were met with flimsy excuses, lies, a statement that the family had been bowling with the system down for the past 3 hours, and the clerk saying they were shutting down.
Our group left Back Alley Bowl, dissatisfied at this poor treatment, discussing how to get fairness,and talking to others in our group who we real soup set at this discrimination. Some who had remained outside said another employee had walked to the lit “Open” sign and turned it off while the group was inside.
When a couple of other members of our group heard about this, they went into Back Alley Bowl and tried to go bowling. They too were refused.
As our group stood outside the bowling alley around 10:30 pm talking about this, they saw several employees come outside including one taking out the trash. They politely asked to speak to the original male employee they had talked with previously. He came outside inappropriately carrying a 3 foot long stick and continuously raised the stick above his shoulders while speaking to our group. He stated that the system had been frozen for the past 3 hours and that the “Yoda” computer technician lived 10-15 minutes away and it would be too late to have it fixed. Our group found that incredible since that meant the other party there had been bowling for over 3 hours. The male employee eventually let our group know that his manager was inside and they requested to speak with her.
When the woman manager came out around 10:35 pm she repeated the claim that the computer system was down and said they were shutting down early (despite the 12 midnight posted hours). When asked if the group could come again the next day or get a discount, the manager claimed that she didn’t know if or when they would open up the bowling alley again. The manager said she was sorry that the group “did not get the response that you wanted.”
In contacting residents of Bishop and others sharing information over Yelp reviews, we learned of more instances of Back Alley Bowl discrimination including people met with racist stares with which people of color are all too familiar. As mentioned before, our Florin Manzanar Pilgrimage Committee had experienced this type of bigotry before at the bowling alley.
We do not see this as a matter of a computer being down, misunderstanding, perception, or employee confusion, though these may have played a part. It’s a matter of denying services in public facilities to people of color and religious minorities.
We are aware of the concerns of others in Bishop about this mistreatment. We have met many good people there who have welcomed our diverse group into their businesses. This concern is a hopeful sign that fundamental changes might still be made at Back Alley Bowl and that this black mark be removed from the city of Bishop.
We would like to arrange a meeting at a convenient location for us to discuss what might be done to prevent such actions from ever happening again.
Andy Noguchi, Chairperson Florin Manzanar Pilgrimage Committee, Twila Tomita, Co-Chair Florin Manzanar Pilgrimage Committee, Brandon Miyasaki, Youth Coordinator Florin Manzanar Pilgrimage Committee, Marielle Tsukamoto, Co-President Florin JACL, Maheen Ahmed, Programs Manager CAIR-SV, Lucy Porras, Programs Manager CAIR-San Francisco Bay Area, Brice Hamack, Esq., Northern California Civil Rights Coordinator CAIR-California, Danna Elneil, Operations Manager CAIR-Sacramento Valley, Thaya and Jim Craig, Kenza Elmourabit, Brenda Fong, Chinese American Council of Sacramento
Lorna Fong Judy Fukuman Effie and Stephen Hanway Dr. Satsuki Ina Brandon Inoshita Breana Inoshita Joshua Kaizuka, Esq. Steve and Jennifer Kubo Tatsuno Kusaba Kristi Lin Kinsey Louie Lexie Louie Sachi Louie Alice Morodomi Juveriyah Salat Iman Sherif Titus and Donna Komure Toyama Stan and Christine Umeda Roy Vogel Akemi Yamane
Bishop Mayor Bishop Chamber of Commerce Bishop Paiute Tribe Bishop Rotary Club Inyo Register Newspaper Manzanar National Historic Site Superintendent Manzanar Committee National – Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) National – JACL