Restaurant Closes Over Backlash for Telling Server Not to Wear BLM Mask

A restaurant in California is closed for the foreseeable future after a staff member quit because she was not allowed to wear a Black Lives Matter face mask during her shift—prompting a slew of negative comments and even death threats.

The Girl and the Fig in Sonoma shut its doors on Wednesday, following an SFGate report detailing how server Kimi Stout left her job because the restaurant updated its uniform policy and said she could no longer wear the BLM mask.

Stout quit in September, having worn the mask at work for some weeks before that, but only revealed what had happened in a January Instagram video in which she removes a Girl and the Fig T-shirt and throws it in a trash can.

Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle, the restaurant's president John Toulze said it had shut because of death threats and other messages, with some people saying they wanted to burn down the building.

There are plans to hold a Black Lives Matter protest outside the restaurant on February 14.

"There's no amount of money in the world that's worth it to ask my staff to walk through that and to ask my customers to walk through that," Toulze said.

Toulze told Newsweek he would be holding a press conference about the situation on Thursday morning.

A number of one-star reviews of the restaurant have been posted on sites such as Yelp, prompting the platform to place a "public attention alert" on the Girl and the Fig's page and suspend new reviews.

The alert is placed when businesses are receiving an unusual influx of negative reviews as a result of increased attention or media reports.

"While racism has no place on Yelp and we unequivocally reject racism in any form, all reviews on Yelp must reflect an actual first-hand consumer experience (even if that means disabling the ability for users to express points of view we might agree with)," the alert states.

On September 1, the restaurant announced it was bringing in a policy that required staff to wear Girl and the Fig-branded face masks, or a plain black or blue surgical mask to "provide flexibility but still align with the dress code."

Speaking to SFGate, Stout said she believed the policy was brought in to target her BLM mask, despite previously receiving Toulze's backing to wear it.

"I decided that I was going to wear my mask anyway because, as far as I knew, the president of the company, I had his 100 percent support," she said.

On September 3, Stout wore the BLM mask for a shift. She said Toulze approached her and asked her to turn it around to hide the logo and abide by the new policy.

Stout said she was then told that if she came to work the following day with the mask, she would be sent home.

"I regret to say that I told him, you know, let's just call it now," said Stout. "I don't want to cause a scene. I don't want to cause drama."

In a statement posted to Facebook on Wednesday, the Girl and the Fig said: "We have been quiet for too long. This entire incident has exploded over an employee that did not want to follow the rules. Plain and simple.

"We did not fire her, we did not force her out, she made her own decision to quit because she did not want to follow the rules. She was actually a very good server and we were sorry to lose her.

"We do and have always believed in Black Lives Matters and we know it is a human right issue. I also believe that racism and discrimination have no place in our society. But we also believe that all of us advocating for racial justice must consider the very words and truths shared by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 'Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.'

"Please refrain from profanity, threats and hate messages or we will have to delete them. We are open to having positive conversations to listen and to create meaningful learning opportunities."

A woman wears a Black Lives Matter face mask at a protest in Leeds, northern England, on June 21, 2020. The boss of a California restaurant says it has received death threats after a server left because she was not allowed to wear a BLM mask. OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty