By Chris Hoenig
When a disabled veteran posted on social media his experience of being kicked out of an Enid, Okla., restaurant, he couldn’t have known what was to follow.
Matt Gard, who uses a wheelchair, was a regular customer at Gary’s Chicaros until owner Gary James began denying him service. “He tried to find a weak excuse not to let me in with my wheelchair or the weak excuse of having loud people with me,” Gard told local television station KFOR.
And he says he’s not the only one James discriminates against. “He doesn’t like certain people of race, color, ethnicity.”
But the story turned when KFOR cameras went to interview a very frank James, who didn’t deny that he turns people away. “I’ve been in business 44 years, I think I can spot a freak or a f*ggot,” James said. “If I reached over there and slapped the sh** out of you, you should be offended. But to call someone a ‘ch*nk’ or someone call me a bigot, that doesn’t bother me.
“I don’t deal with these people walking down the street with no jobs on welfare,” he added before referring specifically to Gard. “He created an issue. You only have one time here. You create an issue, you’re out forever.”
Reaction on the restaurant’s Facebook page has been swift, with more than 100 people accusing James of discrimination, many of them vowing never to eat there again. “Are you a D*uchebag A racist A homophobe A closeted self-loathing gay man who thinks gay bashing will cover who you really are” Carol Baker wrote. “Then THIS is the place for you! And the bonus The owner, Gary – a real tribute to the shallow end of the gene pool. Bon appetit!”
“Any business that turns away the money of the American people simply because they do not like the color of their skin, their sexuality, if they are out of work and need some public assistance, or if they are disabled (which is completely out of their control) is not a business I would ever go to and I would strongly urge everyone else to do the same,” Ben Dugas agreed. “We are all Americans and this country is meant to be one where everyone is treated fairly and equally. While I respect this restaurant owners right to his freedom of speech I will also use my own voice to urge people to not only avoid the place but to also spread the word that this restaurant teaches hate in a time when we should all be spreading the ideals of freedom and love.”
The Facebook page has since been taken over by a pro-LGBT group.
The restaurant even features a T-shirt that has derogatory slogans and the N-word on the front, and threatens violence against Muslims and other underrepresented groups.
“I really don’t want gays around. Any man that would compromise his own body would compromise anything,” James said, adding that he proudly wears the offensive T-shirt. “Well, if you work, you own a business, pay your taxes, you’re more than welcome here. If you’re on welfare, stay at home and spend my money, there.”
James’ attitude shouldn’t be news to locals. In 2009, he made nearly identical statements to another station, KWTV, while he was running for a seat on the Enid City Council. “If I discriminate, it’s against the people I dislike,” he said. “If you come in here with all the in-your-face and a limp wrist, no, I don’t really want you in here and my customers damn sure don’t want you in here.”
There is no confirmation yet of an official investigation by the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office of Civil Rights Enforcement, which is in charge of discrimination cases in the state. Discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability and age are possible offenses.