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NAACP plans visit to Fort Myers restaurant for 'resolution' of reservation disagreement

First Street Restaurant
Posted at 6:15 AM, Mar 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-25 19:05:53-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Lee County branch of the NAACP says it will visit a downtown Fort Myers restaurant in hopes to talk about serious allegations made against the business owner.

In a letter distributed Wednesday, NAACP leaders said they will visit First Street Restaurant to try and resolve a situation that took place over St. Patrick's Day weekend.

The organization intended to meet Thursday afternoon, but due to the restaurant owner not being available, NAACP representatives said they will try for a Friday meeting.

A group led by Charlene Towe posted on Facebook that the restaurant wouldn't book reservations for them despite having hosted a similar event the week before.

Towe claims they were denied service because of their ethnicity.

The owner of First Street, Bill Babamov, denies those claims and says it was the size of the party combined with the fact the request was made so close to a busy holiday weekend.

In response, Towe and her group held a "sit-in" at First Street that night. She said she believed police were called to remove them from the premises.

Babamov previously told us police were called to respond to a report of an employee's missing cell phone.

Fort Myers police said they were called to the restaurant on Sunday, "to assist when several patrons refused to leave the business after they closed outside of normal business hours. We had no issue once we arrived and all patrons exited the business without incident." They stressed they were not called to remove any specific person.

"The NAACP will be seeking a public apology from [Babamov] to the African American community of Lee County," the organization's letter states. It goes on to accuse Babamov of treating Towe's party "with racist actions and remarks, as well as referring to the African American group as 'terrorists.'"

We are reaching out to Babamov for further comment about the allegations and stated meeting.