Statement Released: What Did Taco Haven Really Say?

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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_BearLast night I got a message from Jerry Torres, one of the owners of Taco Haven, saying their one and only statement would be forthcoming in a column by Express-News columnist Gilbert Garcia.

Garcia posted it in the later part of his column without comment, after a very good column on how JFK’s visit to San Antonio affected a couple of local people. Reading the statement (printed after the jump), it’s really hard to determine if the Torres family really moved from the position I realized earlier this week.

Yes, I know they have no problem accepting the dollars of LGBT patrons. They’ve done it for years. After all, they’re located in Southtown. But they tried to mask the fact they also support groups opposed to the LGBT community, including on their business property. So did anything really change with the statement?

Here’s the statement from Torres, as printed in Garcia’s column:

Throughout our history, we have openly welcomed people of all religious beliefs, political backgrounds and sexual orientations. If you have eaten here, you know this to be true!

Recently, an employee expressed personal comments that do not reflect our views as a family and as the owners of a business. That employee has been reprimanded.

We try to stay out of politics, but when friends have asked us to place their campaign posters up or to allow them to sign petitions, we have sometimes accommodated those personal requests, as well as requests by a wide variety of organizations to sell items on our property for fundraising purposes for educational and community causes.

Now, because of our open attitude to community requests, we find ourselves caught in the middle of a volatile political debate going on here in San Antonio.

We stand by our 45 year history of equal service to all! We, the Torres family, want to make clear that we have never denied service to anyone! Our business is open to all people, and we both welcome and embrace the diverse people who walk through our doors.

When I read it last night, I went over what Torres was trying to communicate, looking at it from different angles. I wanted to understand if the family had changed positions from what I surmised in my blog entry, or just reiterated that position, in pretty cryptic terms.

If things had changed, I was ready to issue a retraction and apology of misrepresenting their position. But, in light of the prior history and the slowness to come to this position, my feelings about their position are still the same. I stand by my assessment.

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

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

In the days leading up to my blog entry and this statement, I had dialogue with several people closely connected to the family, including a few close friends and extended family members. In that dialogue I suggested a path forward, recommending quick action on some parts.

The family had several missteps through the process that sent signals to the community about how they stood on the issues. Those included allowing the recall petitioners on property, not directly addressing why they were allowed on property, retaining the attorney who served as spokesperson for the NDO opposition faction, and making statements to a conservative blogger that focused more on their right to oppose the LGBT community.

My path forward included the following five steps:

  1. Terminate the relationship with Allan Parker as spokesperson since his prior history sent the wrong signals to the community. His language with NPR's Ryan Loyd on Sunday was just more code words for “religious liberty.”
  2. Discipline the manager who allowed the recall petitioners to remain on property and exhibited a supportive attitude of them when questioned by patrons. After all, he had damaged the brand by his actions.
  3. Issue a statement supporting the ordinance and publicly opposing the groups attempting to recall city council members. Include in that statement apologies to the community for the message communicated by prior actions, stating those actions were not supported by the restaurant.
  4. Have Jerry Torres communicate all messages to the community directly, instead of through a third party spokesperson, to avoid misleading statements. The spokesperson should be present but not speak for the family.
  5. Host a Coffee with the Councilman to demonstrate public support for Council Member Diego Bernal and allow the restaurant to open its arms to the community and invite dialogue.

None of those actions were taken for the longest time, further complicating the message being sent by the restaurant. It was almost like they were hoping this would all blow over and everyone would just go back to business as usual.

The problem is that business became all but usual when the recall petitioners were invited. The message was sent that Taco Haven may support having LGBT patrons spend money at the restaurant, but the restaurant would support causes opposing that community.

Reading Torres’ statement, that position is echoed in it and nothing has really changed. In other words, you can wash away actions with a few confusing words. It takes more actions to counter and correct the past. Taco Haven does not feel that is necessary.

While I appreciate they do not deny service to anyone (actually, they can’t now that the ordinance is in place), they still feel that they have a right to oppose the community as a business.

 

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.

 

Related Stories:

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A Reflection on Prejudice and Discrimination

A City Divided takes the Anti-Discrimination Debate to City Council Chambers

Bernal’s LGBTQ Equality Proposal Sparks Fight for the Freedom to Discriminate

Gallery: San Antonio Pride Parade and Block Party

Main Plaza: Advocates Celebrate Advance of Gay Marriage

Gay Marriage: Is Texas Postponing the Inevitable?

 

11 thoughts on “Statement Released: What Did Taco Haven Really Say?

  1. Here’s the question someone should have asked and gotten an answer to: Would Taco Haven allow a LGBTQ group to campaign for something, anything, that was pro LQBTQ on their sidewalk? I can’t say that I can’t eat here again unless I know that they would not allow that type of activity on their sidewalk. Any idea?

  2. What’s the problem? If they have a good relationship with the people of the community then who cares what their views are.

    They don’t seem to be complaining every time someone in the LBGT community comes in so why make an issue out of it. Is this some kind of smear campaign to kick them out of the community because of their personal opinions or beliefs? Even if they did bring in a couple of petitioners it doesn’t change the fact that they already welcome everyone.

    Get over it!

  3. Who cares if they welcome anyone. That is heroic. No, duh, that is basic business practice. For them to focus on that in their statement, which said nothing, is lame and ineffective. So, great if someone says hello, gives me good service, and takes my money. That is not the issue.

    When they take my money, or allow others to use their place of business to work, or give their money/resources in a way that is associated with the business, to proactively work against me and my family, to make my life harder, to take money out of my pocket and all of the other overt and subtle things that come with not being treated equally, then heck no they do not deserve my money or business. That is the issue.

    When businesses mess-up like this, small or large, there is a brief window to make it right. It happens because they make an effort to understand what they did wrong, understand what they may not “get,” own it, apologize, and also move quickly to do some symbolic things to make amends. How about sponsorship of LGBT Pride in San Antonio next year, how about joining the LGBT Chamber of Commerce, how about taking some ads in local LGBT publications like for the upcoming HRC annual dinner. That is symbolic and tangible How about hosting a LGBT social night and meet their LGBT customers and listen to what they have to say and prove they welcome them. That window is closing for them. They think it is just about good service and being willing to take anyone’s money without discriminating. Nope.
    Plenty of other good Mexican restaurants in San Antonio!

  4. You vote with your money. If you want to eat there, cool. What I am saying is – When is this going to end? It’s unnecessary to bring this out into the public. It seems like an effort carried out by a single party rather than the LGBT community as a whole.

    Nonetheless, I really don’t see how they are discriminating against anyone. I am waiting for someone to say that they have actually been discriminated against by the owners or the staff. Unless that has happened then there is nothing to discuss.

    What I see is one guy carrying a torch and lighting other torches along the way to burn down the supposed witch.

  5. “We try to stay out of politics, but when friends have asked us to place their campaign posters up or to allow them to sign petitions, we have sometimes accommodated those personal requests, as well as requests by a wide variety of organizations to sell items on our property for fundraising purposes for educational and community causes.”

    When those educational causes involve inciting discrimination and intolerance, then that’s where the line needs to be drawn. Spreading bigotry is hardly a “community cause.” These people were allowed to use Taco Haven as a forum to spread a message that has alienated a large amount of people. I don’t see how they can say that politics is off limits but it’s okay to have a petition to recall local political figures who voted for anti-discrimination law. Very hypocritical and double-standardish of the Torres family.

  6. David I think you miss the real issue in this discussion. Actually, there are quite a few more who have exhibited a more direct response to Taco Haven than myself. The issue is not that TH is discriminating and I even pointed that out. The issue is that a business who accepts a community actively participates with a group who’s sole desire is to fight for the LGBT community. In larger terms, we in the LGBT community calle it being “Chick-fil-a”ed. We’ll take your money, but we’ll turn around and work with groups who oppose you.

    Does that mean people can’t engage in diverse points of view? Heck no as individuals. I don’t contribute to directly as an individual. But when you bring your business into the mix, then you’ve crossed a line. I won’t give you my money if you are going to use that business to advocate a position in opposition to me.

  7. “Nonetheless, I really don’t see how they are discriminating against anyone. I am waiting for someone to say that they have actually been discriminated against by the owners or the staff. Unless that has happened then there is nothing to discuss.” – David Lopez

    The Torres Family gives support to people who want to be free to discriminate. Whether the Torres family discriminates directly or indirectly – at the lunch counter or in the voting booth – doesn’t matter. It’s still discrimination.

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