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Plaintiffs Reflect On Settlement After Denver Landlord Refused Muslim Restaurant Owners

Michael de Yoanna
Craig Caldwell and Rashad Khan speak about the $675,000 discrimination settlement in their favor.

Two restaurant owners who won a large settlement in a high-profile discrimination case against a Denver landlord say their main takeaway is the outpouring of support they received for coming forward.

“The outpouring of support that we’ve seen from the community — our friends, our family and everybody — random people will just text me on LinkedIn and say, ‘Hey I read the story. I just want you to know that we support you. Sorry this happened to you,’” said Rashad Khan, a Muslim restaurateur of Bangladeshi descent.

Khan and his father own Curry N Kebob in Boulder, which sought to sublet a space from Craig Caldwell in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. But Caldwell’s landlord, Katina Gatchis, refused to allow the deal, telling Caldwell to “find an American person.”

Caldwell couldn’t believe what he was hearing. So he secretly recorded his interactions with Gatchis on his mobile phone (KUNC was the first to report on the story and tapes last year).

"You need an American person?"

"American person, I need," Gatchis replied, "good like you and me."

When Caldwell asked if he could bring Muslim owners to the space, Gatchis said, “No!”

"They bring all the Muslims from the Middle East and then I have a problem around here," Gatchis told Caldwell on tape. "Bomb, boom. Bomb, boom."

Complaints tracked by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission about racial, religious and national origin discrimination have risen steadily since 2016.

Iris Halpern, one of the attorneys with the Rathod / Mohamedbhai firm for Caldwell and the Khans, said the tapes provided a rare glimpse into what happens every day.

She added, however, that many Coloradans are against discrimination and will take a stand against it, like Caldwell did.

“During this uptick in discrimination and hate crime against racial minorities, against Muslims, against Jews that we’re seeing day to day that we need to remember that the vast majority of our society and community are good people who want to do the right thing, who will come together and who will say no to discrimination,” Halpern said.

Legal documents indicate Gatchis settled the case, filed in Colorado District Court, for $675,000 last month.

Caldwell was paying rent on the site for more than a year as the case dragged on. It has sat empty in that time. He is now free of his lease. He said he took a stand for what he thought was right.

“I couldn’t believe that people would be like that,” Caldwell said. “I’ve never had anything like that happen to me before. You hear about it. You see it on the news and stuff, but it was pretty shocking when it happened. I think hopefully this sends a message to people that you just can’t be like this. There’s too much hate in the world.”

The Khans never opened a restaurant in Denver, but continue to operate at their location in east Boulder.

“I think that’s the biggest takeaway for me,” Khan said. “If this were anywhere else, this would have just been something that we would have had to live with. But we have these laws in place and people that have paved the way for the last 50 years and more that have led to a point where we can fight.”

As investigative reporter for KUNC, I take tips from our audience and, well, investigate them. I strive to go beyond the obvious, to reveal new facts, to go in-depth and to bring new perspectives and personalities to light.
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