A number of restaurants in Washington, DC have said they will refuse to serve members of white nationalist groups this weekend, as the second “Unite the Right” rally prepares to descend on the city.
The Washington has reported that restaurants in the area have either decided to shut down for the day or have vowed to refuse service to anyone wearing white nationalist clothing. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Equinox Restaurant Near the White House Will Not Serve Members of ‘Pro-Nazi’ Groups
Equinox restaurant is a swanky spot near the White House — it’s located at 818 Connecticut Avenue NW. The restaurant offers what it calls “a Mid-Atlantic regionally inspired menu, crafted in accordance with the earth’s natural rhythms.” The dinner menu ranges from $32 (Grilled Abalone Mushrooms with Black Garlic) to $38 (Pan Roasted Delaware Rockfish Filet).
Equinox’s owner, Ellen Kassoff Grey, told The Washingtonian that she plans to keep her restaurant open, although she expects a drop in business as many of her regular customers are likely to avoid the area during the Unite the Right event. But Kassoff also said that, since she is Jewish, she plans to turn away any potential customers who come in wearing pro-Nazi gear.
“I’ll proudly stay open and serve those who’re respectful and kind. But being a Jewish restaurant owner and having a pro-Nazi group come to town, would I refuse service? Yes, I would,” Kassoff Gray told The Washingtonian.
2. The Lincoln Restaurant Will Shut Down Early Because of Safety Concerns
Adam Popovsky is the owner of The Lincoln, a high-end restaurant in DC. The Lincoln bills itself as more than just a restaurant — it calls itself a “an expression of artistic collaboration in gastronomy, mixology design.” It’s also the home of Zagat’s “must try burger.”
But the must-try burger won’t be available on Sunday evening during the Unite the Right rally.The Lincoln has announced that they will shut down early on Sunday and will remain closed throughout the right-wing rally. The restaurant said they made the decision so that they don’t have to turn away any potential customers. The implication is that Lincoln would otherwise have decided to refuse service to white nationalist customers.
The restaurant posted a sign on its door setting out its policy on race relations and on the upcoming event. You can see that, and read its announcement about its early closing time, here.
3. The Founding Fathers Restaurant Near the White House Is Prepared to Refuse Service to Anyone Wearing ‘Nazi’ Paraphernalia
The Washingtonian interviewed Dan Simons, the restaurateur who owns the Founding Father restaurant and other fine restaurants around town. The Founding Fathers describes itself as an “urban farmhouse” and offers the likes of Ham, Apple & Peas Macaroni & Cheese ($16.50) and Chili Cheesburgers ($14.50).
Simons, the founder and owner, told The Washingtonian that he’s been preparing his staff for potential trouble on Sunday during the Unite the Right rally. Simons said he is “prepared” to turn away customers wearing neo-Nazi paraphernalia. He also said that he’ll repay employees who decide to take a taxi to or from work on that day, because of safety concerns. He will also allow any employee who asks to take the day off.
“Our mentality is we’re going to protect each other. This is our city. Our house. Our people,” Simon told The Washingtonian. “There are times when a guest can be rude to an employee and you swap out the server. We’ve told our team: this isn’t what that is. You don’t have to be in a room with someone who’s advocating for your death and enslavement.”
4. The Old Ebbitt Grill is Reportedly Beefing Up Security Ahead of the Rally
The Old Ebbitt grill is one of the highest-grossing restaurants in Washington DC and in the country. The restaurant reported more than 32 million dollars in sales in 2016; in 2017 it was ranked fifth in a list of highest-grossing independent restaurants in the US.
The Washingtonian reports that the Old Ebbitt is “beefing up security” ahead of the Unite the Right rally. The restaurant has not reported any plans to close and is still accepting reservations for Saturday and Sunday.
5. Legal Experts Say It Is Perfectly Legal to Refuse Service to White Nationalists
The DC Human Rights Act prohibits restaurants from refusing to serve people based on their political affiliation. That’s the same human rights act which prohibits restaurants from turning customers away based on their race, skin color, or gender, or based on other protected qualities. You can read the full act here.
But — according to a lawyer from the Veritas Law firm — the DC Human Rights Act does not protect members of white nationalist groups. Scott Rome, a lawyer working for Veritas, spoke to training seminar hosted by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington last year. He said that “fringe ideological groups” — like white nationalists — are not protected by the law in the same way as, say, Democrats, or Republicans, are protected. So, while a restaurant can’t legally turn away customers for being Republicans or for being Democrats, they are within their rights to turn away white nationalists.
Rome also told the Restaurant Association that a restaurant can deny service to someone if they believe there’s a risk of violence. So, if someone’s political t-shirt might cause a fight in a restaurant, the restaurant owner is permitted to turn away that customer.
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