Southern Kitchen & Bar responds to planned protest: ‘Attempts to undermine our business… will not be tolerated’

Local News

Aireal Bonner said that she was disciminated against by Southern Kitchen & Bar (Photo by Lee Hedgepeth)

October 02 2021 06:00 pm

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Southern Kitchen & Bar, the restaurant at the center of a recent controversy, is responding to plans for a protest on Saturday.

In a statement published on their Facebook account, the Uptown Birmingham restaurant calls out Aireal Bonner, a woman who said she was discriminated against by the establishment, by name.

The statement, which can be read in full below, reiterates that when restaurant staff asked Bonner to cover up her small, knitted top with a complimentary t-shirt, the intervention was “ill-timed, but not ill-intentioned.” Employees had asked Bonner to cover her attire after she had been seated and ordered and received her meal.

This photo shows the attire Bonner was wearing when she was asked to cover up in Southern Kitchen & Bar. (Photo courtesy of Aireal Bonner)

The restaurant recently apologized for the timing of their staff’s confrontation of Bonner in a statement to CBS 42, but has not contacted Bonner to make a direct apology. Bonner called the restaurant’s initial statement “laughable.”

Bonner has said she believes that she was asked to cover up or leave the establishment not solely because of her attire, but also because of the color of her skin and her Afrocentric appearance. You can read CBS 42’s full interview with Bonner here.

Southern Bar & Kitchen’s most recent statement goes on to claim that Bonner “has also undertaken numerous initiatives to undermine our business” including “encouraging negative reviews of the restaurant and planning a sit-in for this Saturday.”

The sit-in referenced in the statement is organized by Alabama Rally for Injustice, according to the event’s page on Facebook. A protest was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but was delayed because of weather concerns.

“The sit-in will continue rain or shine on Saturday, 11a to 7p,” the organization said on Facebook. “This time will allow for anyone to participate. Please be sure to come in pairs or a group. This is only a sit-in. No chants or signs necessary. Wear your favorite crop top under a t-shirt and after being sat by the host or seated at the bar, remove it! The sidewalk is public property and the sit-in can take place here as well if necessary.”

Southern Kitchen & Bar reacted forcefully to the planned sit-in.

“We want to be very clear that attempts to undermine our business and mischaracterize our staff will not be tolerated,” the statement said. “Misconduct has never been, and will never be, permitted in our restaurant, and misbehavior or any attempt to provoke others will not be allowed.”

Southern Bar & Kitchen also said that despite calls for the firing of the staff members involved, including general manager Stephen Goode, “no dismissals will be forthcoming.”

“We know the hearts and minds of our team; no offense was intended,” the statement said.

For her part, Bonner has told CBS 42 that she did not ask for negative reviews of the restaurant.

“I only asked people in the community to share their honest experiences,” she said.

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