Restaurant owner bans "Make America Great Again" hats, then apologizes

By Kathryn Watson

/ CBS News

A restaurateur in San Mateo, California, has apologized after announcing a ban on anyone wearing "Make America Great Again" hats, CBS San Francisco reports. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, a chef and partner at Wursthall Restaurant and Bierhaus, tweeted on Sunday that he wouldn't serve anyone who enters his restaurant with one of President Trump's signature caps.

"It hasn't happened yet, but if you come to my restaurant wearing a MAGA cap, you aren't getting served. Same as if you come in wearing a swastika, white hood, or any other symbol of intolerance and hate," Lopez-Alt tweeted.

The "MAGA" hat ban tweet was taken down later, but it had already sparked both support and criticism. The restaurant's Facebook and Yelp pages were quickly overloaded with negative comments, forcing the social media sites to shut down the comment sections, CBS San Francisco reported.

Lopez-Alt posted an apology on Medium Friday.

"I want to start by apologizing to my staff and partners at Wursthall. Making a public statement without taking my team's thoughts into consideration was disrespectful and reckless," he wrote. "My goal at Wursthall was for it to be a restaurant where all employees and staff are treated with respect and trust, and by making that public statement without your consent, I failed at that goal. I will work hard to earn back that trust."

"Symbols have power and meaning and can mean different things to different people at different times and in different contexts," he added. "After having seen the red hat displayed so prominently in so many moments of anger, hate, and violence, to me — and many others — the hat began to symbolize exactly that: anger, hate, and violence. This was the context my tweet was meant to communicate. Unfortunately, the way I tried to communicate this ended up only amplifying the anger, and I apologize for that."

Lopez-Alt said his restaurant "will continue, as it always has, to serve all customer regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, sexual preference, gender orientation, disability, or political opinion — so long as they leave hate, anger, and violence outside of the doors of our restaurant."

Lopez-Alt weighs in on politics from time to time. Earlier this week, he tweeted, "In case anyone else needs some comfort after @realDonaldTrump's crazy ranting about Iran, here is a recipe for Iranian gondi soup from @ChefEinat. The dumplings are made with chickpeas and chicken and are delicious. I love it. Especially in the winter."

In case anyone else needs some comfort after @realDonaldTrump’s crazy ranting about Iran, here is a recipe for Iranian gondi soup from @ChefEinat. The dumplings are made with chickpeas and chicken and are delicious. I love it. Especially in the winter.https://t.co/Ox3ObFwR4A

— J. Kenji “Individual Fun” López-Alt (@kenjilopezalt) January 30, 2019

First published on February 1, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Kathryn Watson

Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.

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