Ohio restaurant's church discount angers some customers

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Church discount at cafe angers customers. Matt O'Donnell reports during Action News Mornings on July 20, 2018. (WPVI)

An Ohio restaurant owner's discount to some customers left a bad taste in other people's mouths.

Justin Watson opened Starters Cafe in Cheviot about two months ago.

Watson says he was trying to stir up some business with a discount offer to any church.

"Any congregation, any religion, any area, whatever -- as long as you brought me a church bulletin, I would give you 10 percent off your meal for the day. It seemed pretty simple and here we are," Watson said.

Watson says he got angry comments from some saying he was discriminating against non-religious people.

Jim Helton with American Atheists says it's not always clear-cut, but he agrees.

"A lot of the answers in these cases is it depends. In this case, it was illegal because it was only offering to churches," Helton said.

Jason Phillabaum, an attorney and a former prosecutor, said he saw nothing wrong with the discount offer.

"The law prohibits discrimination. And in this case, he's not denying service, he's offering a discount if someone does something specific like bring in a church bulletin," Phillabaum said.

To be on the safe side, Watson now offers a 10 percent discount to everyone on Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.

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