AP NEWS

Lawyers claim hotel thrice denied black guest parking for holiday party

December 19, 2018

In the 24 years since she met her husband, attorney Amber Macias-Mayo said, she’s never seen such a brazen display of discrimination.

Macias-Mayo and one of her partners at a Santa Fe family-law firm say her husband, Gerald Mayo, was denied parking in the Eldorado Hotel & Spa’s garage on three separate occasions during the company’s holiday party on Saturday night — all, they claim, because he is black.

Meanwhile, hotel officials chalk it all up to an unfortunate miscommunication.

When he arrived at about 5:45 p.m. to attend Walther Bennett Mayo Honeycutt’s company party in the downtown hotel’s top-floor Presidential Suite, the 43-year-old Mayo was told the lot was full and he’d have to park somewhere else.

Over the course of the next hour, 20 additional guests arrived, and all were ushered into the parking garage without event, Macias-Mayo said.

Mayo tried two more times to park — including once, Macias-Mayo said, while other party guests were actively driving out of the parking lot. Both times, he was turned away.

Meanwhile, as events unfolded, an occasion meant to celebrate a year of hard work turned somber, Macias-Mayo said.

“My husband was humiliated, I was enraged, and our party guests were uncomfortable with the situation,” Macias-Mayo, 41, wrote in a letter to hotel executives. “… We have never witnessed such blatant discrimination, even in places where we expected to see it.”

The couple, who live in Albuquerque, had planned to stay in the suite that night rather than drive home.

Both Macias-Mayo and her colleague, firm partner David Walther, drafted letters to hotel executives requesting a formal apology. Macias-Mayo provided copies of those letters, along with the hotel’s emailed response, to The New Mexican.

In the response, Megan Wallstrom, the hotel’s director of catering and conference services, described the situation as “an unfortunate miscommunication.”

Hotel guests who are staying the night are given preference for parking spots, Wallstrom wrote. “If we had been clear that Mr. Mayo was staying in the hotel we would have parked his car immediately,” she added.

Though she acknowledged there’s a possibility the lot was full each time her husband tried to park, Macias-Mayo said the fact that other guests, most of whom were not staying the night, parked without incident after Mayo makes that prospect unlikely.

The Eldorado is owned by Heritage Hotels & Resorts. In an emailed statement, Ben Lewinger, a spokesman for the hotel, also described the incident as a misunderstanding, noting that Mayo described himself as a party guest, not an overnight hotel guest.

Lewinger said the property champions a welcoming environment.

“Our policy at the Eldorado Hotel is to treat everybody with respect, regardless of race, age or creed,” Lewinger wrote. “We take any concerns, especially those of discrimination, very seriously. We are tremendously sorry for any discomfort or embarrassment experienced by Gerald Mayo, his wife Amber, and other guests of their company holiday party.”

Still, he acknowledged hotel staffers could have “done a better job to acknowledge and resolve Ms. Macias-Mayo’s concerns. For that we apologize.”

Macias-Mayo, who along with Walther confronted parking attendants after Mayo’s third failed parking attempt, said hotel staffers told her to “calm down” and addressed her male colleague instead of her. They declined to apologize to her or Mayo — instead focusing on determining whether Eldorado parking employees or contracted parking attendants had been involved.

Realizing their concerns would go unresolved that night, Macias-Mayo and Mayo returned to the hotel — but not before parking attendants parked Mayo’s car for him, she said.

The hotel’s response since then, Macias-Mayo said, has been “ridiculous” and “half-assed.”

“I was so upset and humiliated and embarrassed for my husband that night that I wanted him to immediately receive an apology,” she said in a telephone interview. “He didn’t get that.”

AP RADIO
Update hourly