Locals to Taco Haven: You Can’t Take Our Money, Then Fight Us With It

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Taco Haven in Southtown, 1032 S. Presa St. Photo by Randy Bear.

Taco Haven in Southtown, 1032 S. Presa St. Photo by Randy Bear.

Randy_BearTaco Haven has been in the news after allowing people on its property last week to promote a recall members of City Council who supported the recently passed non-discrimination ordinance (NDO).

That incident prompted a Yelp review by Michael Cepek, who had visited the restaurant with his girlfriend, hoping to enjoy a good meal. Instead, he was met by folks spreading false information about the city ordinance, such as predatory cross-dressing men invading female restrooms throughout the city.

It turns out the recall folks were invited to the restaurant and allowed to collect signatures.

Taco Haven in Southtown, 1032 S. Presa St.  Photo by Randy Bear.

Taco Haven in Southtown, 1032 S. Presa St. Photo by Randy Bear.

This surprised many in the community, not only LGBT individuals who have frequented the restaurant, but anyone in San Antonio looking to enjoy a good breakfast taco.

Over the weekend, two approaches were taken to confront the issue and get answers. One was a Sunday morning protest scheduled by GetEQUAL TX, preceded by a phone conversation between Taco Haven owners and GetEQUAL TX activist Erin Jennings. The other was a discussion I had earlier that same morning with owners Jerry and Reggie Torres to see what really happened.

During my conversation with Jerry, it became clear he had no problem with LGBT individuals as customers, citing many from the neighborhood who would stop by his restaurant. He knew several by name and talked about their partners. When I asked Jerry about a statement expressing that support, he said his attorney, Allan Parker, would be issuing one later on, as they found out more.

That name should have rung a bell with me, but it didn’t at the time. A subsequent search of the Internet turned up only one attorney named Allan Parker, who works for The Justice Foundation, a conservative firm that believes in free markets, limited government, and religious liberty.

Parker also was the spokesperson for groups opposed to the passage of the non-discrimination ordinance, speaking on behalf of the groups at rallies at City Hall. Discovery of this intersection on Monday led many who were trying to continue support for the family to begin to question their motives.

Throughout the ordeal, the Torres family continued to mask their position, constantly claiming they accepted all individuals regardless of their orientation. However, when asked by Gilbert Garcia of the San Antonio Express-News on the move to retain Parker, the family rationalized the move as one of need.

“One member of the Torres family said they turned to Parker for representation at least partly because they didn’t see anyone else stepping forward to help them. Unfortunately, this move plays into the assumptions of both the restaurant’s defenders and detractors,” Garcia wrote in his column.

During the protests Sunday morning, Parker defended the restaurant’s right to express its option and allow civil discourse to occur in an interview with Ryan Loyd of Texas Public Radio.

“Just because you allow people to exercise their civil rights does not mean you’re a hater,” Parker said. “In fact, we need to allow each other to agree to disagree on these important issues and allow civil discourse to occur.”

With the diversity of Southtown, where Taco Haven is located, many from the community sought answers as to why the Torres family would allow people opposed to the NDO to attempt a recall of the district’s councilman on its property. Several business owners who supported the NDO sat down with family members to find out the real story.

Taco Haven in Southtown, 1032 S. Presa St.  Photo by Randy Bear.

Taco Haven in Southtown, 1032 S. Presa St. Photo by Randy Bear.

What most were told was that this was being blown out of proportion and the family has no problem with LGBT patrons. When pressed about the recall petitioners, the most common response was that they were led to believe this was “to protect the children,” the misleading statement made by recall petitioners.

Many, including myself, kept a dialogue going with extended family members and, at a distance, the family itself. Answers from the family seemed cryptic but promising, as if there was an internal discussion going on about the right approach to take.

All of that changed today when a blog entry from a known conservative blogger, Sonja Harris, appeared on the right-wing site Texas GOP Vote. The blog entry, titled “The Destruction of the Traditional Family,” featured both Jerry and Reggie Torres in a photo and discussed the weekend’s events, attacking GetEQUAL TX for its protests.

According to Harris, “Jerry feels that they should have the right to decide what is allowed in their restaurant and that they should have the privilege of expressing their Christian views without retribution.” Torres went on to say that “no one should bully us into changing our views just to fit into society.”

With that blog entry it became very clear the Torres family’s real intention was to welcome LGBT business but oppose the community through causes, including inviting those causes on their business property. That’s when this failed any smell test of tolerance with those who have supported them up until today.

It’s a familiar story throughout the United States these days. Businesses have no problem taking money from individuals, yet turn around and use that money to oppose them on issues of social justice.

Now is the time to turn the light on this deception being played out by the Torres family on the community in Southtown and in San Antonio, as a whole. Just as the recall folks have been twisting the language of the NDO to coerce people and gather signatures, the Torres family have leveraged the desire for tolerance by a community to mask their intolerance of that same community.

I was duped by a desire to seek answers and look for good intentions. It was hard to accept that a business that has catered to diversity in the community for so long would turn around and fight that same community, especially with such a deceptive group as the recall effort.

Each reader can make his or her own choice about where you eat. I have chosen to not visit Taco Haven given the family’s chosen course of action. Of course, any boycott of Taco Haven will be viewed as an attack on the family’s free speech rights. In reality, the option of free speech goes both ways – you can express your opinions as a business any way you like, but I can also express my opinion of your views by choosing not to visit you.


Randy Bear is a 20-plus years  San Antonio resident, transplanted from Little Rock to join the ranks of USAA in Information Technology. Over the last two decades, he’s been involved in a variety of civic and political activities, including work with San Antonio Sports, KLRN, Keep San Antonio Beautiful, and Fiesta San Antonio. Randy’s political life took root when several friends from Arkansas pulled him into the first Clinton presidential campaign. Since then, he’s been active in politics and government, including a brief period serving on the staff of former City Councilman Reed Williams. 

This story has been republished, with permission, from Bear’s blog “Concerned Citizens” at www.concernedinsa.com.


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22 thoughts on “Locals to Taco Haven: You Can’t Take Our Money, Then Fight Us With It

  1. I will no longer be giving them my business. But, I may stop by to see if the petitioners are out there so I can exercise my right to free speech with a few choice words. It’s a shame. I love their horchata.

  2. Money talks…and mine is saying I don’t support bigots. Won’t be spending any at Taco Haven ever again.

  3. I liked their food but ALWAYS wondered why it smelled like open sewer in there sometimes… I guess now I know why. Plenty of places in SA that don’t discriminate and I will be more than happy to spend my hard earned money with them instead.

  4. So here’s an idea- Taco Haven gay-ins. Essentially a LGBT and allies two week sit in campaign. It’s an opposite of a boycott. Shower them with business- make your stance clear on equality. Wear those rainbow colors and triangles. Make a fabulous scene, tip well, and then at the end is two weeks take it all away. This provides a better example of who their customers were.

    • John, I really like this idea. A LOT. My first inclination is to keep my STRAIGHT dollars in my pocket in support of my much loved brothers and sisters in the LGBT community. I think Bernal is a tremendous councilman and a first rate human. I resent the hell out of these carpet-baggers coming into our neighborhood to spread lies and hate. I kept hoping that this was a big, fat misunderstanding. I guess not, considering the Torres family continues to double-down in favor of intolerance.

  5. Mickey Jay and Jaymee Johnson I will NO LONGER be going here! I’m using my money to support businesses that are not bigots. To the Torres family; there is no difference in what you are doing and what may establishments did in the early years; WHITES ONLY with a back entrance for everyone else. You want them to come and spend their money but want to treat them as a second class citizen. Shame on you!

  6. I support their right to have and express their views, regardless of how wrong, hateful and hurtful they may be. And I will exercise my right to never spend another dime with them. Adios, bigots!

  7. I enjoyed both of your articles on this topic, Randy. But this update is crucial and I agree ultimately with your final position. It is unfortunate that conservative groups have swept in to let the family know they should retain their right to freedom of expression. Have not conservatives taken a class on public relations? They are just using this family to promote their ideas (which I understand but with which I choose to disagree) and their representation is only harming the business in the long run. The family could have taken this opportunity to make things better, but have listened to the wrong persons. I believe they were misled but ultimately they bare responsibility for their own actions.

  8. I recall a few years back when Aaron Brown of Brown Coffee Co spoke out on his disgust of gay marriage. Stuns me when business owners are so out of touch that they would openly express their intolerance against the very customers that pay their bills. Vote with your dollars folks, and turn away from businesses that promote hate.

  9. this is hilarious everybody has the right to say what they want and do what they want. let people be people why stress over it the new world order is in motion. You don’t think God knows whats going on down here. when all hell breaks loose you’ll still be here stressing on these issues. I myself well i say let people do what they want i’m niether judge nor jury. Now just think i know it a little hard for you but don’t you think God wants you to bring people to him instead of driving them away. what next the blacks or those hispanics. Now wait a minute why not protest more important issues,like why the Lord name is beening taken out of everything. instead we pick on the gays. its hilarious. oh! bye the way I when there today to eat and i most likey will go again soon.

  10. Wow. I am truly shocked. I have been eating at Taco Haven since I was a child. Taco Haven will NOT get another dime from me. I hope the Torres Family enjoys serving their bigot customers. It seems like after Mark Torres’ violent death by the hands of a bigot, they would look past labels and recognize the good in people. Shame on you Torres Family for choosing hate over humanity. I’m sure Allan Parker’s parents would have NEVER stepped foot in a poor Hispanic breakfast spot such as Taco Haven. I’m sure Allan Parker would never invite the Torres Family to his home for a meal. I’m sure Allan Parker is very proud of himself for manipulating a gullible and naive family into doing his bidding. Wake up Torres Family! You are smarter than this. Your parents did not work day and night just to have you throw it all away!

  11. Screw these assholes. If they want to take LGBT people’s money they better not publicly work against us. They can do one or the other, but as the saying goes, “don’t bite the hand that feeds you”.

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