Do Restaurants Have the Unrestricted Right to Refuse Service?
No. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 explicitly prohibits restaurants from refusing service to patrons on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin. In addition, most courts don’t allow restaurants to refuse service to patrons based on extremely arbitrary conditions. For example, a person likely can’t be refused service due to having a lazy eye.
But Aren’t Restaurants Considered Private Property?
Yes, however they are also considered places of public accommodation. In other words, the primary purpose of a restaurant is to sell food to the general public, which necessarily requires susceptibility to equal protection laws. Therefore, a restaurant’s existence as private property does not excuse an unjustified refusal of service. This can be contrasted to a nightclub, which usually caters itself to a specific group of clientele based on age and social status.
So Are "Right to Refuse Service to Anyone" Signs in Restaurants Legal?
Yes, however they still do not give a restaurant the power to refuse service on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin. These signs also do not preclude a court from finding other arbitrary refusals of service to be discriminatory. Simply put, restaurants that carry a "Right to Refuse Service" sign are subject to the same laws as restaurants without one.