Darin Hodge, a Vancouver-area man, was fired from his job as the manager of Teahouse in Stanley Park restaurant after being accused of refusing to serve a customer if he continued to wear a “Make America Great Again” hat.
In this case, in stark contrast to the decision of the owner of the Virginia restaurant The Red Hen, the Teahouse stressed that it does not discriminate among customers and terminated Hodge, who has not backed down from his stance. In the Red Hen situation, owner Stephanie Wilkinson asked President Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to leave the restaurant as Sanders dined with her family. In both cases, Wilkinson and Hodge said they were too morally opposed to Trump to do nothing.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Hodge Asked a Customer to Remove the ‘MAGA’ Hat, Reports Say
CBC described the encounter as unfolding this way: An unidentified man entered the restaurant wearing the signature red “Make America Great Again” hat. Hodge was working as the restaurant’s floor manager and “confronted” the customer.
“[He] took over the table and requested that he take the hat off,” said the restaurant’s general manager Andy Crimp to CBC.
“[The customer] said he had a right to wear it. [Hodge] said if you don’t take the hat off, we won’t serve you. And the man left,” CBC reported of the incident.
According to CTV, Hodge “denied explicitly refusing to serve the customer wearing the MAGA hat,” but Crimp says “Hodge asked the patron to remove the headwear.”
2. Hodge Told Journalists He Stood By His Decision
Hodge doesn’t regret his actions, even though they led to him losing his job, according to Global News.
“I stand by my decision to ask the patron to remove his hat. The MAGA hat has come to symbolize racism, bigotry, islamaphobia [sic], misogyny, white supremacy, homophobia. As a person with a strong moral backbone, I had to take a stand against this guest’s choice of headwear while in my former place of work,” he wrote to the Canadian news outlet.
“Absolutely no regrets.”
3. The Company Explained That Hodge Was Fired for ‘Violating the Company’s Philosophy of Tolerance’
Eva Gates, of the Sequoia Group, the company which owns the Stanley Park Teahouse, told Global News that it was true the manager wouldn’t serve the man unless he removed his MAGA hat.
“And the gentleman said that he had a right to wear that hat. And [the manager] refused to serve him if he wouldn’t take off his hat, and so the customer had to leave,” she told Global News, describing Hodge a “good person with a big heart and a right to his personal beliefs,” who was fired or “violating the company’s philosophy of tolerance.”
Crimp told CTV he believed that Hodge should have kept his political beliefs separate from his job. “I was a little bit taken aback and I was a little bit stunned,” he told CTV News on June 30, 2018. “Our company doesn’t discriminate against people with different values or beliefs that we have.”
Crimp added to CTV, “I believe that everyone has a right to their own opinion and to have their own values and their own philosophy of how they want feel and believe, but I think that when you’re at work and you’re a manager, you have to set an example for the people who are working for you. We don’t want people to feel unwelcome in the restaurant and we don’t want to set up an environment where employees feel like they have the right to refuse service to people who come into the restaurant.”
4. The Red Hen’s Owner Took a Different Stance
When Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to dine with her family at the Red Hen farm-to-table restaurant in Lexington, Virginia in June 2018, the owner, Wilkinson, asked her to leave. Sanders complied, but she took to Twitter to expose the situation, writing, “Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.”
Her father, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and her boss, Trump, then tweeted in defense of Sanders and a firestorm erupted.
In April 2018, a New York judge dismissed a lawsuit from a man who says he was denied service at a bar because he was wearing a MAGA hat. In that case, the man wearing the MAGA hat, Greg Piatek of Philadelphia, says he was told to leave The Happiest Hour bar in New York’s West Village. According to CNN, he said the matter left him humiliated, but the judge ruled the bar was not acting outside the law. CNN reported that the bar’s owner disputes Piatek’s account and says he was asked to leave for allegedly being “verbally abusive.”
5. Hodge Worked for the Teahouse for 18 Months & Its Yelp Page Has Filled With Comments on the Controversy
Hodge was employed at the Vancouver-area restaurant for 18 months.
As with the Red Hen controversy, the Yelp page for the Teahouse restaurant has now filled with comments both for and against the restaurant and Hodge. The page is now subjected to what Yelp called an “active clean up alert” in which Yelp tries to remove comments that are generated solely by the news stories on the controversy.
One comment writer described the MAGA hat wearer as a man in his 40s or 50s who refused to take the hat off. “I was awestruck and elated when the manager refused to service the person,” that comment writer wrote. Some people said they wouldn’t frequent the restaurant again because it fired Hodge. However, others expressed support for the restaurant’s decision to fire Hodge and said it makes them want to visit more.
“The Teahouse responded quickly and fired Darin Hodge for his bigot behavior and because of that I will now start coming back to your restaurant,” wrote a person on the other side.