DENVER—The Hispanic restaurant owners who ignited an uproar over their plans to hold White Appreciation Day next month were forced to evacuate their barbecue joint late Friday after a bomb scare.
Co-owner Edgar Antillon said Rubbin’ Buttz BBQ in Milliken, Colorado, was shut down for several hours during the dinner rush after a bomb threat in posts on social media, but he later said that the eatery plans to reopen Saturday.
Shortly before the evacuation, Mr. Antillon told the Washington Times that he has received numerous threats and criticism over the restaurant’s plan to hold White Appreciation Day on June 11. Mr. Antillon and Miguel Jiminez bought the restaurant last month.
“It’s been phone calls, it’s been emails, it’s been on social media,” said Mr. Antillon. “Some are just, ‘Hey, you’re an idiot,’ and others have been legit threats. The former owners of this establishment are receiving threats even though they have nothing to do with this thing. It’s unfortunate.”
He announced Thursday on Twitter that white customers would receive 10 percent off their tab on White Appreciation Day, but he emphasized Friday that the discount would apply to all patrons, regardless of their race.
“It’s like we’ve said many times before, if a black person comes in here and says, ‘Hey, what about my discount,’ they’re going to get a discount,” Mr. Antillon said. “If a Mexican comes in here and says, ‘I want a discount,’ they’re going to get a discount. Nobody’s going to be turned down for anything.”
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That may be enough to satisfy the Colorado Civil Rights Division, which investigates complaints of unequal treatment based on race, but it remains to be seen whether the clarification will rein in the restaurant’s detractors.
“You name it: It’s been Mexicans, it’s been white people. It’s been threats as small as, ‘We’re never coming back to your restaurant,’ to, ‘I hope I don’t see you on the street,’” Mr. Antillon said. “It’s been all levels from everybody.”
He said the idea behind White Appreciation Day is to “highlight a double standard,” citing the month-long celebrations for black history and Hispanic heritage, and remind patrons that, “We’re all Americans.”
“It wasn’t something that we took lightly and just jumped the gun. We thought about it, we thought about the consequences, we thought about our families,” Mr. Antillon said. “And we still decided that, well, we could live in fear and not do anything, or try and make a statement, make a point that all this racial tension.”
On the plus side, he said the positive comments about the idea have outweighed the negative.
“The messages that we’re receiving are overwhelmingly positive,” Mr. Antillon said. “Here at the restaurant, there’s no change. People may laugh at it. I had two guys—a Mexican guy and a white guy—who came in all the way from Pueblo to eat our food.”
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Mr. Jiminez hails from Mexico, as do Mr. Antillon’s parents, but that hasn’t inoculated them from charges of racism on social media. A list of negative Tweets compiled by the conservative website SooperMexican includes several comments along the lines of, “Every day is white appreciation day.”
“The restaurant owner who’s celebrating white appreciation day w/10% discount is Latino. Do whites cheering know that? Oh the irony,” said one Tweet.
SooperMexican responded, “Yes, actually, it’s widely reported, you idiot. I guess white people should be offended a Hispanic person would do that?”
After the bomb threat, Michael Lewin of Los Angeles told the restaurant owners on Facebook, “You brought this on yourselves, so own it. What you are doing is in poor taste and negates the struggle that millions of people have endured. It’s tasteless and shows a lack of understanding of history and a lack of empathy.”
Mr. Antillon said the toughest part about the hoopla has been his concern over the safety of his four children, who are home-schooled. Anyone itching to stir up trouble may want to bear in mind that he’s an NRA firearms instructor known for his organization Guns for Everyone, which offers free concealed-carry classes.
“Today was the first day in the entire time we’ve been here that I actually told my kids, ‘Don’t go outside, stay inside.’ It was very emotional for me,” Mr. Antillon said. “Today was just one of those days when I felt it wasn’t safe for them because of the threats.”
If he’s having second thoughts, however, he isn’t showing it. After regaining access to the restaurant Friday, he posted photos on Facebook of the rubbed prime rib he plans to serve Saturday on sandwiches, along with smoked filet mignon.
“Stay strong brother,” said Charley Barnes on the Rubbin’ Buttz BBQ page. “[T]housands are behind you and the more bomb threats you get the more we support you!”
Judging from the reaction, there could be a large crowd descending on the restaurant come June 11. Mr. Antillon said he has already discussed security concerns with local authorities in the town of about 6,000.
“I’ve talked to the police chief here to set up a plan just in case there are protesters, how we’re going to feed the protesters,” Mr. Antillon said. “I figure some barbecue will keep the peace a little bit.”