In a story I published on Monday regarding the immediate response of Central Florida’s restaurant and food service community to the terror attack at Pulse Sunday, I glossed over one restaurant’s name without commenting: Chick-fil-a.
According to OneBlood spokesman Pat Michaels, the Goldenrod restaurant whose ads feature the ill-spelling cows was handing out food to people standing in line the same day as the attacks to donate blood for wounded victims. One report said one of the lines was a mile long and the wait to give blood was eight hours. So food was needed and, I’m sure, appreciated.
But what was glossed over was the incongruity of a business whose relationship with the gay community has been somewhat strained, to say the least. And don’t say that the people who came out and contributed, whether with physical labor, blood donations or, in the case of the culinary community, didn’t consider who they were helping. Look further in the article I wrote and see what people were yelling out of their cars after a bomb threat — a bomb threat! — forced the evacuation of The Center, which was filled with people counseling, organizing and dealing with grieving citizens. There are other examples in various news sites where people are essentially saying the people inside Pulse deserved what they got because of who they were.
Chick-fil-a didn’t have to do what it did. So kudos to them for doing it.
But consider this as well: They did it on a Sunday.
The fast food restaurant has a corporate-wide policy to be be closed on Sundays, which the religious founders considered a day of rest.
The 4 Rivers Smokehouse chain also has a never-on-Sunday rule. Make that almost-never-on-Sunday. The popular Central Florida based barbecuery will open its Winter Park location on Sunday, June 19, for a benefit.
“It was a big decision for us,” said owner John Rivers, “we’ve never been open on a Sunday in all of our six and a half years.” Rivers, who spoke by phone from a grocery store in Provence, where he is vacationing with his family, added, “But this is important. People have been hurt. We can put our day of rest aside.”
Rivers said that he reached out to the team and asked if anyone was willing to come in for the special day. There was no hesitation, he said, they all wanted to come in. What’s more, he said they had the option of clocking in to be paid as they would on a regular day. No one will be clocking in. “That means more funds for the cause.” And, he said, team members from other 4 Rivers locations, including as far away as Jacksonville, have offered to come in, and a few former employees have contacted managers saying they’d like to be part of the team again for the day.
“This has been a defining moment for the company,” Rivers said when asked if there was any discussion that the closed on Sunday rule would be broken to help members of the LGBT community. “I caught a lot of negativity from the gay community,” he said. “They just assumed that because I go to church and we’re closed on Sunday that I’m anti gay.” He noted that his company employs people from many different faiths and has a number of gay people on staff, including in top management.
There was never any discussion about who they would be helping. He said he thought he would get more pushback because this particular Sunday is also Father’s Day. That, too, was not an issue.
Rivers said he’ll be back for the event and will be on the line cutting brisket along with area mayors he has invited to join him.
The restaurant, at 1600 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, will be open Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. All proceeds from the day’s sales will go to the Pulse victims and their families.