DENVER – What used to be the White Fence Farm on a Denver street corner is collecting dust. Crag Caldwell has a five-year lease on the space and closed down his shop, looking for someone to sublet it.
That’s when he came across the Khan family. They own the successful Curry n Kebob restaurant in Boulder and are looking to expand.
Caldwell said he was caught off-guard when he brought up the idea to his landlord, only to get rejected.
The reason surprised him so much, he said he started recording conversations with Katina Gatchis.
“I mean if I have a good tenant financially, he’s stronger than I am,” Caldwell can be heard saying on the tape, advocating for the Kahn family.
“No, he’s not,” Gatchis is heard saying. “You’re an American.”
“Oh, you need an American person?” Caldwell said.
“American person I need,” Gatchis said.
Gatchis owns Capitol Hill Liquors across the street from the property, along with several properties on the strip mall.
Caldwell and the Khans are suing Gatchis over the statements, claiming she is discriminating and not doing business with the Khans based on race and religion.
“If I get anybody, as long as it’s not a Muslim, I’d be OK?” Caldwell asked during a taped conversation.
“Yes,” Gatchis replied.
“This is unabashed, unapologetic racism, bigotry, Islamophobia, and has no business or place in our community,” said Qusair Mohamedbhai, representing the Khans and Caldwell for the lawsuit.
Gatchis and her legal team did not return KDVR’s calls, but court filings indicate she denied the claims made by Caldwell and the Khans.
“The Khans are every bit as American as everyone else,” Mohamedbhai said. “There are no tiers of Americans, there is no hierarchy of Americans. We are all equal under the law.”
The trial is set for March.