California Chef Who Vowed Not to Serve Anyone Wearing a MAGA Hat Backtracks Quickly

The owner of a San Mateo, California restaurant, who is also a chef, vowed not to serve anyone who showed up wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, and has quickly backpedalled on that stance.

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, chef-partner at the Wursthall restaurant, said in a since-deleted tweet posted last weekend that wearing a MAGA hat was a “symbol of intolerance and hate” akin to a swastika or a KKK hood.

“It hasn’t happened yet, but if you come to my restaurant wearing a MAGA cap, you aren’t getting served, same as if you come in wearing a swastika, white hood, or any other symbol of intolerance and hate,” the tweet said. 

On Friday, however, Lopez-Alt apologized for making this statement without consulting any of the restaurant staff or partners.

“I want to start by apologizing to my staff and partners at Wursthall. Making a public statement without taking my team’s thoughts into consideration was disrespectful and reckless,” Lopez-Alt wrote on Medium. “My goal at Wursthall was for it to be a restaurant where all employees and staff are treated with respect and trust, and by making that public statement without your consent, I failed at that goal. I will work hard to earn back that trust.”

The chef, who identifies as a feminist and an atheist, cited his diverse family background that “spans across the political spectrum.”

“[W]e still manage to have a wonderful time at our biannual family reunion because we have three things in common: family, a love for our country, and most importantly, respect for each other and our communities,” Lopez-Alt said. The chef went on to say that “Like many people, I’m scared and confused by the anger, hatred, and violence that I’m seeing in our country right now,” adding that “[s]ymbols have power and meaning and can mean different things to different people at different times and in different contexts.”

Lopez-Alt said that the meaning of his original tweet could be traced to seeing the “red hat displayed so prominently in so many moments of anger, hate, and violence, to me — and many others.”

“ The hat began to symbolize exactly that: anger, hate, and violence. This was the context my tweet was meant to communicate,” Lopez-Alt said. “Unfortunately the way I tried to communicate this ended up only amplifying the anger, and I apologize for that.”

Lopez-Alt pledged to serve any customer “so long as they leave hate, anger, and violence outside of the doors of our restaurant.”

Law&Crime’s Ronn Blitzer previously wrote on the subject of denying a person service based on political affiliation or political opinion, in the context of White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders being turned away from the Red Hen restaurant in Virginia.

David Cole, National Legal Director of the ACLU, explained to Law&Crime at the time that “only three jurisdictions protect against discriminatory refusals of service based on political affiliation or opinion” — Washington, D.C., Seattle and the Virgin Islands.

The Unruh Civil Rights Act of California says the following about those protected from “discrimination by all business establishments in California, including housing and public accommodations”:

All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, or sexual orientation are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.

Absent from the law is any mention of politics.

[Image via Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images]

Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.

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