By Melissa Garcia
DENVER, Colo. (CBS4) — A Boulder restaurant owner is searching for a new place to rent after he was allegedly denied a lease in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood because of his religion.
A lawsuit, filed in Denver district court, alleges the landlord of a vacant former restaurant on 9th and Corona refused to rent to the would-be tenant due to his Muslim faith.
When previous tenant Craig Caldwell had to close the secondary location, he was grateful to find a sub-let renter who would take over the remainder of his 5-year lease.
Would-be sublessee Rashad Khan, who practices Islam, came to the United States from Bangladesh when he was a child.
He co-owns a popular Indian restaurant in Boulder and plans to open a second location in Denver.
Cell phone audio recordings, allegedly detailing conversations between Caldwell and his landlord, are at the center of the lawsuit.
“So if I get anybody, as long as it’s not a Muslim, I would be okay?” Caldwell asks. “Yes, No Muslims, especially this guy,” says the other person, in the recording. “(I need a) good American person, like you and me.”
The lease requires the landlord, Katina Gatchis, to sign off on sub-lets.
Attorney Qusair Mohamedbhai said Gatchis and her employee son would not allow Khan to sublease.
“He said it’s because he’s a Muslim,” Caldwell said in another recording. “I can’t have a Muslim?” Caldwell asks. “No,” responds the other voice. “How come?” Caldwell asks. “Because before, we had a lot of troubles… this kind of type, they are very dangerous, extremely dangerous,” the other person says.
“That is so offensive. It is so racist, and bigoted,” Mohamedbhai told CBS4’s Melissa Garcia. “This case represents some of the most outrageous and agregious discrimination I’ve ever seen in my 15-years of being a civil rights attorney.”
In the lawsuit, Mohamedbhai claims Gatchis’ refusal violated federal anti-discrimination law.
“Racism and discrimination in our streets and in our communities will not be tolerated,” Mohamedbhai said. “Ms. Gatchis should not have the right and privilege to do business in the city and county of Denver.”
Gatchis declined to comment, referring CBS4 to her lawyers. The attorneys did not respond to requests for comment Saturday.
According to a written response to the lawsuit, Gatchis denies claims that she refused to rent on the basis of religion.
Mohamedbhai said the case is set for jury trial in March of 2019.