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D.C. Restaurants Can Legally Shun White Nationalists This Weekend

The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington is reminding members they can refuse service to rally-goers

Proper 21, located nearby this weekend’s planned protests, is ready to refuse service “to patrons with oppressive views.”
Proper 21/Facebook
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) blasted out an email to its local restaurant members this week, letting them know they have the right to refuse service to a controversial group of protestors expected to descend on D.C. this weekend.

A “Unite the Right” rally is expected to take place at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 12 in Lafayette Park, a downtown area of the city flooded with restaurants and bars. Unite the Right, which translates to “alt-right” or alternative right, is a group affiliated with white supremacy, neo-Nazism, and white nationalism.

While restaurants can’t legally deny customers based on race, sex, or political affiliation, “a choice not to host a fringe ideological group likely would not violate the DC Human Rights Act’s prohibition on discrimination,” according to the RAMW email obtained by Eater.

Member services director and policy advisor Eden Raskin Jenkins quotes intel from her association’s general counsel Veritas Law Firm, saying the law “generally permits” a restaurant or tavern to refuse service to an individual or group of individuals.

Upscale sports bar Proper 21 (1319 F Street NW), a New York import located a short walk away from where the protest will take place, is prepared to refuse service if necessary this weekend. Partner Will Strozier provided the following statement to Eater:

“Proper 21 values diversity and will not serve patrons with oppressive views and affiliations that offend those values. We will refuse service to any individual who may endanger the safety of our patrons and employees.”

The DC Human Rights Act also has an exception for unintentional discrimination based on business necessity, points out RAMW, writing: “It can be argued that the duty of a restaurant or tavern to maintain a safe establishment requires prohibiting members of a fringe ideological group entry due to the potential risk of danger or violence.”

Adams Morgan burger haven Lucky Buns, which just announced plans to open another D.C. location, has a similar plan of action to “not tolerate hatred”:

The planned protest coincides with the one-year anniversary of a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. that resulted in the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer. On Sunday the protesters are expected to take the Metro from Vienna to Foggy Bottom, marching to Lafayette Park from 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; the rally is expected to last until 7:30 p.m.

RAMW’s FYI email also linked to an internal safety toolkit compiled ahead of the Inauguration last year. Its annual summer restaurant week kicks off on Monday, August 13, with hundreds of restaurants expected to participate in $22 lunch and $35 dinner deals.