Diner settles in slander suit

Bahama Breeze admits no liability in the dispute with a man who had been a frequent patron

Staff WriterAugust 30, 2006 

— A Wake County slander lawsuit has been settled out of court between the Bahama Breeze restaurant in Raleigh and Charles "Chuck" Johnson, a former frequent diner.

The lawsuit, filed in June, alleged that hearsay discussed by Bahama Breeze employees last year destroyed Chuck Johnson's reputation and his business as a real-estate broker and developer. The rumors, the suit says, insinuated that Chuck Johnson, 38, was a drug dealer and embezzler under the microscope of police.

Raleigh lawyer Jim Johnson, who represented but is not related to Chuck Johnson, said he could only confirm that the lawsuit had been resolved. He also said he could not talk about the details of that resolution.

"I can confirm that the case has been informally resolved without any admission of liability," said Mike Bernstein, director of media and communications for Bahama Breeze. "The terms of the settlement are completely confidential."

The legal action against the restaurant alleged that the falsehoods about Chuck Johnson amounted to character assassination. Court papers also speculated that the gossip could have started because some Bahama Breeze employees perceived that Chuck Johnson had violated the restaurant's table-seating policy.

The suit named both Bahama Breeze and its parent company, Darden Restaurants.

Based in Orlando, Fla., Darden is the world's largest casual dining company. Its other brands include Red Lobster, Olive Garden and Smokey Bones Barbeque & Grill.

Staff writer Cindy George can be reached at 829-4656 or cgeorge@newsobserver.com.

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