Another day, another MAGA hat controversy: Prominent cookbook author Kenji López-Alt is apologizing after tweeting that his recently opened Bay Area restaurant, Wursthall, would not serve anyone wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.
López-Alt, whose extensively tested, exacting recipes for popular cooking website Serious Eats propelled him to internet fame, said over the weekend in a now-deleted tweet that “...if you come to my restaurant wearing a MAGA cap, you aren’t getting served,” comparing the red hats to KKK hoods and swastikas.
That declaration didn’t sit well with some of López’s 40,000-plus followers, and resulted in a flurry of headlines both local and national. Several accused him of discrimination, an allegation that López swiftly refuted, writing in another now-deleted tweet, “You are welcome to come eat regardless of your politics affiliations or views. But if you publicly display bigotry, bye.”
Just two days after López-Alt proclaimed Wursthall would not serve MAGA hat wearers, actor Jussie Smollett was brutally attacked in Chicago by two men allegedly sporting the red hats. They reportedly spouted racist and homophobic slurs at Smollett, poured an unidentified chemical substance on him, and tied a rope around his neck.
Now, however, López-Alt is walking back his comments. In a Medium post on Friday morning, he issues a textbook mea culpa, writing in an apology directed to “my staff and partners”: “...Making a public statement without taking my team’s thoughts into consideration was disrespectful and reckless. My goal at Wursthall was for it to be a restaurant where all employees and staff are treated with respect and trust, and by making that public statement without your consent, I failed at that goal. I will work hard to earn back that trust.” Per the San Francisco Chronicle, when the story first went viral earlier this week, López had initially declined to comment further on the situation “for his staff’s safety,” acknowledging that Wursthall received threatening emails in the wake of his tweet.
López-Alt also writes that “[his] personal perspective in no way meant that Wursthall was changing its policy, as is being erroneously reported in media” — though reporters can hardly be blamed for interpreting his original tweet that way, given the tweet’s emphatic nature and his leadership role at Wursthall as chef-partner.
Nonetheless, it’s not the first time MAGA hats have been at the center of a restaurant controversy, and certainly won’t be the last: Last August, a New York judge ruled that it’s legal for bar owners to kick out patrons wearing said the hats does not qualify as a religious belief; that judgment was handed down after a scorned MAGA hat-wearing customer filed a lawsuit against an NYC bar that ejected him. (Other symbols have also sparked heated debates in the restaurant world: Last year in Portland, Oregon, the owners of acclaimed Russian restaurant Kachka were accused of being Nazi sympathizers after a photo was posted online of a customer wearing a shirt with a symbol associated with Nazi Germany inside the restaurant; co-owner Israel Morales would later say in a statement, “We had no idea what the symbol on the shirt meant, and if we had known, we would not have served him.”)
People more directly associated with the Trump administration have also found themselves unwelcome at restaurants: Last summer, Virginia restaurant the Red Hen became the target of harassment and conspiracy theories after kicking out press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, while other administration officials including former EPA chief Scott Pruitt have been approached by angry diners mid-meal.
“Wursthall will continue, as it always has, to serve all customer regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, sexual preference, gender orientation, disability, or political opinion — so long as they leave hate, anger, and violence outside of the doors of our restaurant,” López-Alt’s Medium apology concludes. López could not immediately be reached for comment, but it seems MAGA hat wearers will still be allowed to dine at Wursthall as long as they behave themselves.