Black Experience

Bob Johnson, Luxury Hotel Resolve Check-In Dustup

Officials at the Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa in Florida expressed regret Tuesday following a fallout with former BET owner Bob Johnson over his refusal to remove a pair of prescription sunglasses as he checked into the five-star luxury hotel.

“On Friday we hosted Mr. Bob Johnson for lunch at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa and have resolved the check-in misunderstanding that took place on August 24,” officials said in a joint statement with Johnson. “We let Mr. Johnson know that we sincerely apologize that he left our property feeling offended and unwelcome. The safety and security of our guests is top priority. We learned a valuable lesson in the delivery of our check-in policy and will ensure this scenario does not reoccur.”

Johnson, who became the first Black billionaire in 2001 when he sold BET, said he felt humiliated when he returned from a fishing trip and prepared to check in at the luxury hotel.

Johnson said he gave his car to the valet and they took his bags while he walked to the front desk to confirm his two-night reservation.

Johnson said he gave the staffer his Florida driver’s license, his American Express card and passport.

“Then she says, ‘Mr. Johnson, you need to take off your sunglasses,'” Johnson said.

Johnson, who spoke with WPBF by phone, said he thought she was joking.

He said the woman told him that it was for his security to protect him from fraud.

Johnson said he refused to take off his prescription sunglasses.

“She said, ‘Well, I can’t check you in if you don’t take off your glasses,'” Johnson said.

Eau Palm Beach spokesman Nick Gold said the policy is for the protection of guests.

“It is standard operating procedure in the industry to ask to make sure that the person who is presenting themselves to check in and they present identification that it does match and if they’re wearing dark glasses with a ball cap low over their face, you want to make sure that it is the same person, much like what would happen at TSA rules going through the airport,” Gold said.

Johnson, who currently owns 165 hotels, said he’s used to taking off his glasses when traveling in and out of the country, but not at a U.S. hotel.

“I think it’s a silly rule and I think it has overtones of racial profiling,” said Johnson, who’d requested police intervention.

Records show Manalapan police responded to the hotel’s call and talked with Johnson.

After trying to talk it out, there was no compromise and Johnson left the hotel.

However, the hotel’s officials said Johnson is always welcome to stay there.

“We’d love for him to come back,” Gold said. “All guests are welcome here at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa and we pride ourselves on how we treat our guests.”

Johnson, who initially vowed to never return, appeared to have had a change of heart.

“The management team at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa has personally apologized and acknowledged my concerns with their check-in policy, and I appreciate their willingness to re-evaluate this practice moving forward,” Johnson said in the statement. “I’m glad they understand my perspective on this matter. I look forward to returning and enjoying the resort’s amenities in the future.”

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