August 23, 2017 at 3:44 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Waiter refuses to let gay couple share dessert
The Prime Rib, gay news, Washington Blade

The Prime Rib (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The news that a server at D.C.’s upscale Prime Rib restaurant “shamed” a gay couple by refusing their request for a single ice cream sundae with two spoons because it “doesn’t go with the ambience of the restaurant” went viral this week.

D.C. residents Ron Gage, 55, and his partner, Henry McKinnon, 58, set off an avalanche of media coverage by telling about their encounter with the Prime Rib waiter in a posting on Facebook, which was quickly picked up by the Washington Post.

The two told the Post they were having a pleasant time at dinner at the Northwest D.C. restaurant on Aug. 17 until they decided to share an ice cream sundae. They said they asked the waiter for two spoons.

According to the Post, Gage said the waiter startled the couple by replying that “he would bring it in two separate dishes. He said ‘It wouldn’t look right with two gentlemen eating out of the same sundae. It doesn’t go with the ambiance of the restaurant.’”

The two men were “speechless” and simply nodded to the waiter, Gage told the Post. They quietly ate their ice cream and left a 15 percent tip rather than the 20 percent they always leave at restaurants and did not say anything to the waiter or the management.

But the next day they grew angry at what happened and posted reports about the incident on Facebook and Yelp.

A Google search using Gage and McKinnon’s names and the name “Prime Rib” leads to dozens of news media reports of the incident, including news outlets throughout the U.S. and the United Kingdom and Canada.

Fox News reported the restaurant, which responded by firing the waiter, expressed concern that the news reports unfairly portrayed the Prime Rib as a place where blatant discrimination had taken place.

“What he said was stupid and it’s not us,” Larry Bravman, The Prime Rib’s maître d’ in Washington told Fox News. “We’ve been here for 40 years and if you look at the Yelp page the day before and the day before that, it’s all good,” he said. “This isn’t who we are.”

Fox News reports that Prime Rib received so many negative postings on its Yelp page that Yelp issued a “cleanup alert” and began removing all “news-motivated content” from the page.

James MacLeod, the restaurant’s manager, told the Post the waiter was from Bulgaria and English wasn’t his first language and it was possible he got confused about what he was saying.

“There’s no way we would condone anything remotely like this,” MacLeod told the Post.

The Blade couldn’t immediately reach Gage and McKinnon.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

8 Comments

  • Well, one thing is obvious: No Tip ! ! ! !

    • Some of us tip to relative excess as we used to work for tips. In this instance, the couple thought they were sending a message with what they believed to be a minimal tip.

      • You are quite correct. Only a sincere apology from the restaurant, accompanied by an explanation of the actions its management has taken to ensure that such an incident will not happen again, should be considered for acceptance. Thank you.

  • I would very much like to read a follow-up! The restaurant should have refunded the cost of the dinner, and offered the couple a free dinner. I have to add the fact that they tipped (15%) anyhow shows class on their part. I would not have.

    • I agree that a news followup is in order.

      However, no, as to a token, piddly remedy for the patrons alone. The restaurant manager has made the problem worse, IMHO.

      The manager seemed to make a public denial and/or ignored the essential problem– that two of their gay patrons were wronged, shamed and made to feel distressed on the restaurant’s premises, by their own staff member. Given that public response, this restaurant chain (apparently, with a MD. casino venue, too) needs to do a lot more than provide a private apology and a meal freebee.

      The LGBT communities of DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia deserve to know– through a public statement of some sort– exactly what the owners/ managers attitudes and policies are regarding treatment of LGBT patrons. And how will they prevent this kind of conduct in the future?

  • So much for having not having to worry about discrimination simply because you can legally marry. The Bulgaria language barrier excuse sounds so lame to me. The waiter’s response to the request for two spoons was quite clear even saying it wouldn’t go with the ambience and telling them he would bring to separate dishes.

    First, you should have confronted him and said you are the customer and if you want to share a dessert with two spoons, then it is now the new ambience of the joint! I would have said your trip isn’t looking so good by the moment.If he still gave you lip then go to the manager. You should confront bigotry head on rather than through the shadows of the internet. So what if you make a scene and asked to live, do you want to return to a place that won’t respect you and still expects you to pay the bill? A 15.0% tip was excessive for this behavior. Give him 5.0% and leave a note explaining why!!!

    Let this be a lesson to stop taking your rights for granted and assuming nobody cares you are gay anymore! People care more than you want to know. If religious conservatives get their way in the courts, you can expect more blatant confrontations like this and more humiliation and likely even denial of service. It’s the tip of the iceberg and the Trump administration is enabling it!

  • The restaurant or its management trying to shirk its responsibility– to blame this discriminatory conduct solely on a foreign-born waiter– is a disappointing non-starter. The restaurant and its management always have a duty to take care that all of there staff members are trained to adhere to DC law and non-discriminatory best practices.

    DC’s Human Rights Act is very clear (asterisk highlights, mine)…

    The D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977, Section 2-1402.31(a) of the D.C. Code, prohibits acts performed *wholly or partially* for a discriminatory reason:

    “To deny, *directly or indirectly*, any person the *full and equal enjoyment* of the goods, *services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations* of any place of public accommodation…”
    See…
    https://ohr.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/ohr/publication/attachments/DCGovPublicAccomodationsNotice.pdf
    ————-
    \“What he said was stupid and it’s not us,” Larry Bravman, The Prime Rib’s maître d’ in Washington told Fox News. “We’ve been here for 40 years and if you look at the Yelp page the day before and the day before that, it’s all good,” he said. “This isn’t who we are.”

    James MacLeod, the restaurant’s manager, told the Post the waiter was from Bulgaria and English wasn’t his first language and it was possible he got confused about what he was saying.//

  • Gay men caring more about this fancy restaurant incident than the foiled Muslim plot to bomb gay bars in San Francisco is a good indication of why gay men probably won’t be around much longer.

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