A lesbian couple has decided to seek legal counsel for what they’re calling discrimination after being asked to leave District American Kitchen and Wine Bar last week.
Kenyata White and Aeimee Diaz were asked to leave the restaurant when they shared a kiss they described as “a peck” while celebrating their anniversary last week at the restaurant where they met. The couple sat in the same booth and reminisced about their meeting two years earlier. They were approached by a manager seconds after they kissed, White said.
“He told us our behavior was extremely inappropriate and that we needed to leave,” White said.
White said she and her partner were at first confused by the manager’s request.
“The first words out of his mouth are ‘You need to get a room. There are over a thousand rooms in this building. Go pick one,’” she said. “Then he just leaves.”
Diaz said White became emotional after being asked to leave.
Diaz said she asked to speak to the manager in an attempt to understand why he told the couple to leave.
“He told us there was a group of older gentlemen who were not comfortable with our presence, so he had to do his job,” White said. “His job was to make them comfortable, so he had to kick us out.”
The couple said he offered to give them free drinks if they returned the next day. They did not accept the offer.
White posted a status about the incident on her Facebook profile, expecting a few sympathetic comments from friends. Within hours, the post had elicited a public outrage.
“The reality is that this has really shocked people,” said Nick Ray, executive director of LGBT-rights group Equality Arizona. “This is happening either directly or more passively every day in restaurants in the Valley, and 999 times out of 1,000 we don’t hear about it.”
District Kitchen released a statement on Feb. 27 stating, “We embrace diversity and are proud supporters of the LGBT community. We are taking this incident very seriously … We take pride in having a very diverse workplace — a workplace that offers benefits for domestic partners. Our restaurant is open for all to enjoy and we sincerely regret that this incident took place.”
Ray said the incident is not behavior that is in keeping with his experiences at the restaurant or hotel.
“I’ve been to the Sheraton and I’ve done events with them,” he said. “I don’t believe they are a company that is made up of homophobic staff.”
The couple met with District Kitchen and Sheraton Hotel managers Tuesday to discuss the incident, identify gaps in customer service policy and plan sensitivity training for restaurant and hotel employees.
“It was a very positive meeting,” White said Tuesday. “They seemed very concerned about what happened and eager to make it right.”
However, what initially appeared to be cooperation from District Kitchen and Sheraton managerial staff has apparently deteriorated.
“District Kitchen is saying it’s been resolved,” Diaz said Sunday. “It’s not resolved. I’ve sent emails out to them and they’ve not responded.”
Attempts by the Downtown Devil to contact the Sheraton’s general manager and official spokesperson Leo Percopo were not returned.
The couple met with lawyers Friday to determine what legal action could be taken against the restaurant, which is owned by the city of Phoenix.
“We’ve been asked not to talk about it very much, but we’re moving forward with it,” White said.
The couple said the response to White’s post – both on her Facebook profile and on District Kitchen’s Facebook page – was far beyond what they expected.
“This wasn’t our intention at all,” White said. “We’re not trying to bash or to shut anyone down.”
Diaz said she and her partner hope the incident will create an awareness among the community.
“It’s good to be angry and outraged, and it’s great that the community is rising up,” she said. “But we really just want to create an awareness that will hopefully bring about the change that so many really are crying out for.”
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