Restaurant shuns Trump supporters
“If you voted for Trump you can not eat here! No Nazis,” says the pencil-scrawled sign that chef Robert Warner put on the front door of his restaurant, Cafe 8 1/2.
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A longtime downtown Honolulu restaurant known for its pasta dishes and daily baked bread is now drawing attention for nonculinary reasons.
“If you voted for Trump you can not eat here! No Nazis,” says the pencil-scrawled sign that chef Robert Warner put on the front door of the Cafe 8 1/2 Italian eatery the day after Trump won the 2016 presidential election.
Warner, a nonvoter, said that the poster is his way of “taking a little action without freaking out or being really offensive, but it is going to offend some people, I know that.” It’s not a political statement, he said. “This is bigger than just me,” he said of Trump’s election. “This affects the whole world.”
Warner, who’s been dishing up Italian specialties at his Alakea Street locale for 23 years, said he does not believe the sign has caused a drop in business. There are traditionally fewer diners in December anyway, he said.
Nor has anyone come up to either he or his wife, Jali, to complain about the sign, although several customers have told them they like it, Warner said.
But after a foxnews.com story about the sign went online Tuesday, the restaurant’s phone began ringing off the hook from people unhappy with the anti-Trump sign. Several cursed at Jali Warner. One person claimed to be their landlord and threatened to kick them out. The calls were so frequent that the restaurant had a tough time dialing out for credit card approvals, Robert Warner said.
MEANWHILE, Facebook and Yelp reviewers unhappy with the sign have driven his overall Yelp and Facebook ratings down dramatically. Some accused the owners of being racist.
“Hawaii’s supposed to be the melting pot of the Pacific. Where’s the aloha?” said Gary P. of Kalihi on the Cafe 8 1/2 Yelp page.
The Yelp page has received so much input that Yelp web monitors have thrown an “Active Cleanup Alert” of the possible removal of “both positive and negative posts that appear to be motivated more by the news coverage itself than the review’s personal consumer experience with the business.”
Warner said he’s not turning away Trump supporters. He said he’s also not trying to change anyone’s mind about the president-elect, just make his views known and let people understand what kind of environment they are walking into if they do decide to eat there.
If he walked by a restaurant or store that disparages liberals, he wouldn’t be upset, Warner said. “I would be more like grateful that it was clear so that I wouldn’t have to go in there and feel uncomfortable or make them feel uncomfortable,” he said. “OK, cool, they can do that. This is America.”
THE Northern California native described Cafe 8 1/2 as “a rather artistic, bohemian place — liberal,
so people kind of know that.”
If Trump supporters understand that and think they can get along, “then great, there’s no problem. But if there is a problem, then they don’t have to come.”
The Warners think people are overreacting.
“It’s only 12 words there. It’s not that big of a sign,” Warner said.