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Domino’s Told To Serve Black Town

February 13, 1998

AMERICAN BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ A federal judge ordered a Domino’s Pizza franchise to begin delivering to a small beach town where all except four of the 75 residents are black.

James and Joyce Robinson filed a federal lawsuit against the Domino’s franchise in nearby Fernandina Beach in November after they were told drivers wouldn’t bring them pizza because of security concerns.

The Robinsons said the franchise was violating their civil rights, and on Wednesday, a judge granted a preliminary injuction ordering the shop to immediately begin delivering to the historic coastal community 20 miles northeast of Jacksonville.

``It really leaves a sad feeling inside that you have to go to this extent to get a $7 pizza,″ James Robinson said Thursday.

A woman who identified herself as a manager at Domino’s referred a call to the company’s attorney, who was out of town. The franchise owners declined to comment.

During segregation, American Beach was a playground for blacks forbidden to frolic along other shores. It was developed by the now-defunct Afro-American Life Insurance Co., which in the 1930s became Florida’s first black-owned million-dollar business.

The Robinsons contend that their community is safe, a sentiment echoed by the Nassau County sheriff.

According to Power Pizza Inc., which bought the franchise in 1991, American Beach and two other towns, Amelia Island Plantation and Yulee, were excluded from their delivery area under their franchise agreement.

Eventually the company began delivering to posh Amelia Island Plantation, while continuing to refuse orders to the American Beach and Yulee.

American Beach residents were asked to meet Domino’s drivers at a convenience store, even though the local Pizza Hut and Papa John’s Pizza restaurants delivered to homes in the community.

In his order, U.S. District Judge Harvey Schlesinger ruled that Domino’s didn’t establish the existence of legitimate security concerns or a non-discriminatory reason for refusing to deliver to American Beach.

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