Ethics Alarms has repeatedly inveighed against public accommodations that have attempted to discriminate based on customers’ social and political views. This growing phenomenon is part of the ugly legacy of division and and hyper-partisanship created by the Obama years, and it threatens to get worse. If we want an ethical society and a healthy culture, we have to unite and reject this undemocratic tendency quickly and emphatically. It literally threatens all of us.
The specific incident prompting this alarm comes from a restaurant in my region, Maggiano’s Little Italy in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
Last week, Maggiano’s was subject to a protest so vociferous that the restaurant has to shut down for the safety of employees and diners. The reason for the protest was that National Policy Institute (NPI), an alt-right group, was having a banquet there. In a grovelling e-mail to the community, Maggiano’s management wrote that
“We were not aware that NPI was dining with us or what the group represents. After the event, an attendee sent a tweet in which she made a “Sieg Heil salute” in support of Hitler and white supremacy. This expression of support of Hitler is extremely offensive to us, as our restaurant is home to Teammates and Guests of every race, religion and cultural background. We want to sincerely apologize to the community of Friendship Heights for inadvertently hosting this meeting, which resulted in hateful sentiment.”
When did it become required conduct for restaurants to investigate the liberal bona fides of a group before it could be granted leave to dine there? When did what a diner tweets after a meal become conduct a restaurant had to account for? If Maggiano’s can be bullied into apologizing for serving the NPI, why would serving any other group or organization that some group of self-righteous protesters find objectionable, fairly or not, pose a similar risk?
Put aside the Nazi salute: that’s inappropriate conduct in a public place, and the restaurant could certainly, and should, tell diners who behaved like that to leave. That’s not what the restaurant is apologizing for, however. They are apologizing for hosting the group, despite its Constitutionally protected political views. Continue reading