Allegedly Racist Philly Store Owners Sue Protesters

Photo by Deniz Göçmen on Unsplash

West Philadelphia restaurant/bar Local 44 and pizzeria Clarkville are dealing with staff walkouts over alleged racist and homophobic history with the owners of both establishments.

The situation started with the firing of a Clarkville employee back on July 16. According to Eater Philadelphia, workers at both establishments say that the firing was racially motivated and that racially-focused discrimination is an ongoing issue with the restaurant owners Leigh Maida, Brendan Hartranft, and Brendan Kelly.

These incidents have led to the walkout and protests by employees, which resulted in both businesses being shut down for about a week. That said, the restaurants are planned to reopen on August 9th.

To address the situation and the sudden week of closure, both restaurants released the above vague statements of apology on their Instagram pages. Then this Sunday (August 4h), both accounts shared a longer message to explain the owners’ side of the situation.

“The recent firing of an employee at Clarkville has led to accusations that their termination was racially motivated. This is simply not true,” said the statement before including that the owners, “will be taking part in a day of mandatory unconscious racial bias training. Staff are encouraged to attend as well to let their voice be heard.”

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The recent firing of an employee at Clarkville has led to accusations that their termination was racially motivated. This is simply not true. Over the past two weeks we have reached out multiple times to the fired employee and the protesters of this termination in person, through email & intermediaries offering them a chance to voice their concerns and reasoning. We have yet to receive a response.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ We've been closed so that we can focus all of our attention on this situation. We are working with local organizations to further our emphasis on increased diversity in staffing our businesses. ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ We value our position in this community and the outpouring of support we have received from all corners of the neighborhood is overwhelming, thank you.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ In addition to efforts we are making to extend the reach of our hiring practices, Local 44 and Clarkville owners and management will be taking part in a day of mandatory unconscious racial bias training. Staff are encouraged to attend as well to let their voice be heard. ⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Both Local 44 and Clarkville will reopen on Friday, August 9 at 4pm and we invite everyone to join us. We will also continue to honor the protester's right to freely express their opinions, so long as it is done in a legal, nonthreatening way. We must all move forward together in a peaceful, productive manner. We are committed to being a part of this community.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ We welcome all input from the neighborhood on this (and any) matter. Contact us at info@local44beerbar.com

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According to Eater Philadelphia, several claims have appeared, as a response to these statements, saying that the restauranteurs have a history of not only racism but also homophobia. In addition, many called out the establishments for contributing to the area’s gentrification.

Leigh Maida later sent an email to the West Philly Local stating these allegations against her and her colleagues aren’t true.

“We are currently working with staff and others who have reached out to us in the community to address this issue internally for now, which is why we’ve been kind of quiet,” explained the co-owner. “So many people have learned of this issue through social media, and are demanding a response, but any genuine one is going to take us some time to formulate. We feel it’s really important to make space for an in-person dialogue so staff, management and the community can find a meaningful solution together… We don’t take our position in this neighborhood for granted, and we hope our guests understand that we are dedicated to not just resolving this matter, but coming out of this situation as stronger, better employers, neighbors and community members.”

But instead of leaving this moment as a learning opportunity, some claim that the owners have allegedly decided to pushback by suing some of the protestors. Rumors are spreading on social media that the restaurant owners are allegedly trying to intimidate former employees into silencing themselves.

But, Maida says that’s also not true. Instead, they are seeking an injunction.

“We’re petitioning the court for an injunction, that we’ll request that [protestors] are not allowed to use our names personally on their signage and their flyers … And we’re also asking that they be kept 20 feet away from the building in their protest,” Maida explained, according to Billy Penn.

We’ll keep you updated as the story continues.

Sources: Eater Philadelphia, West Philly Local, Billy Penn


Update (08/09/2019): This post has been updated to include Maida’s explanation that she and the other owners are petitioning for an injunction.

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