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updated: 11/3/2019 10:11 PM

Naperville leader ‘saddened’ by report of multiracial diners asked to move away from ‘regular customers’

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  • Benny White, Naperville City Council member

    Benny White, Naperville City Council member

 

A Naperville City Council member who has led diversity efforts in the community said Sunday he was saddened to hear about an incident last week in which a multiracial group of diners was asked to change seats at a local restaurant because other diners did not want to sit near them.

Councilman Benny White said he plans during the city council meeting Tuesday night to address the Oct. 26 events at a Buffalo Wild Wings.

"That a family that can come into our community, or any community, and feel less than human because of someone's negative viewpoint on them, just because they look different, that just saddened me," White said. "If you're a person of color and you come here, I want you to feel like you can walk into any place in our community and feel welcome or, at the minimum, not feel like you're being disparaged or ridiculed."

In a now viral Facebook post, Montgomery resident Mary Vahl describes an encounter she, her husband, Justin Vahl, and four other adults and 12 children had Oct. 26 at the Buffalo Wild Wings at 2555 W. 75th St.

According to her post, a host setting up the group's tables asked her husband, "What race are you guys?"

"My husband asked him why it mattered and the host responded that a table with 2 of their 'regular customers' were next to where we were to be seated and he didn't want us sitting there because (the customer is) 'racist,'" Mary Vahl wrote. "'Us' being a group of minorities, mostly consisting of African Americans."

After the group refused to move to a different area, she wrote, a manager approached and told them their seats had been reserved and the group would have to be moved. Once again, the group refused.

When another manager said another party had already called in to reserve the seats, Mary Vahl wrote, her group chose to leave the restaurant.

Justin Vahl said Sunday that the family has heard from regional representatives of Buffalo Wild Wings but has yet to receive a public apology.

"It is not reconciled," he said, adding that the family is in contact with attorneys about possible litigation. "We're still working on the process. We still don't have a formal public apology from them."

On Sunday, Buffalo Wild Wings issued a statement saying it fired the employees.

"We take this incident very seriously and after conducting a thorough, internal investigation have terminated the employees involved," it said. "Buffalo Wild Wings values an inclusive environment and has zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind." White said he had been told the same about the managers on duty Oct. 26.

Another manager at the Naperville location on Sunday also said the customers who didn't want to sit near the multiracial group no longer are welcome there.

White has held a series of Naperville Neighbors United meetings to address issues of implicit bias in the community. Another one is scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 20, at the Naperville Municipal Center, 400 S. Eagle St., Meeting Room B.