Sonoma restaurant faces backlash over Black Lives Matter mask

Bay Area

SONOMA, Calif. (KRON) – Controversy over a popular restaurant in Sonoma County after a former employee refused to remove a Black Lives Matter face mask.

The restaurant has closed indefinitely after hearing about a planned protest and is concerned about the safety of its employees.

The Girl and The Fig restaurant in Sonoma Plaza is facing backlash after former server Kimi Stout wore a Black Lives Matter mask back in September.

“I was not fired. I was not told that I could not work there anymore but I was told if I cannot change my mask, I would not be allowed to work there and that was an absolute deal-breaker for me. Showing support for marginalized lives is far more important than a uniform policy,” Kimi Stout said. 

Stout says a customer complaint led to the restaurant changing its dress code policy and took to social media recently to express frustration.

Restaurant officials addressed the matter in a virtual press conference Thursday.

“We believe in professionalism and I believe the dress code is a huge method of supporting that and helping our staff provide that experience,” John Toulze said. 

The president of the company adding the restaurant supports Black Lives Matter but verbal attacks on staff are unacceptable.

“The inaccuracies and false claims are leading to character attacks on our staff and management team. Even our families and children.  it’s disturbing and disheartening.  It’s been devastating to our business.  We have prided ourselves on being diverse and inclusive and supporting our community because we are a piece of it,” Toulze said. 

Stout says she’s disappointed to hear about the threats and says her intention was to bring awareness to racial equality.

“The whole point of Black Lives Matter is not violence, the complete antithesis of that so it’s sad to me that a few violent detractors have distracted from this message and turn a peaceful legal and civil protest into something that is scary,” Stout said. 

Stout says she hasn’t heard from her former employer since September but former coworkers have reached out to her to say while they are disappointed not to be working, they fully support her.

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