HONOLULU — Café 8 1/2 is a tiny mom and pop Italian restaurant in Downtown Honolulu.
It gets rave reviews for its handmade pasta and fresh baked breads. But now owner Robert Warner has less time to prep the kitchen – he told KITV-TV he’s been busy fielding questions about a sign Warner says he put up in shock after the election.
It reads, “If you voted for Trump you can not eat here! No Nazis.”
Photos of the sign went viral and was shared thousands of times online.
“I made my one big statement, I guess you could say, with a little poster I put in my window the day after he was elected,” owner Robert Warner said.
The backlash was swift. Warner’s Facebook ranking was inundated by hundreds of one-star reviews. Yelp’s support team started monitoring the page after the number of reviews skyrocketed. Yelp told KITV it actively cleans up reviews in response to media attention.
Reaction on the street was mixed when a KITV reporter asked people on the street what they thought.
“I didn’t know it was legal to do that,” Kathy Shimata said.
Another resident said the move may prove fruitful.
“He can do that but he’ll limit his potential customer base. But, this is a Democrat town so he might get even more support, who knows?” Laurianne Chun said.
The Hawaii Civil Rights Commission enforces the state’s civil rights laws. Those laws prohibit discrimination based on race, religion, sex, and ancestry.
“Only discrimination on those basis is prohibited under our state law,” Hawaii Civil Rights Commission director William Hoshijo said.
But what about political preference?
“Our state law does not protect against discrimination based on political affiliation,” Hoshijo said.
So Warner can refuse service to Trump supporters, if he so chooses, but Warner said he took the sign down soon after the election and will serve conservative carbo-loaders if they can stomach his views.
“I think it’s good to be tolerant, when it’s something tolerable. Like if somebody did come here and said, you know I voted for Trump and I don’t like the sign. I’d say okay I understand that. But if they were nice to me and they wanted to eat, I’d say you know I’m gonna make you some good food if you wanna stick around,” Warner said.
The restaurant’s Facebook page is littered with reactions. Yelp is trying to clean up comments that are directly related to the news reports.