Diana Carrillo and her sister Brenda were excited to go out for dinner and drinks with their friends on Saturday in Huntington Beach, California.
They decided on a restaurant called Saint Marc, which is right across the street from the Pacific Ocean. According to the Washington Post, Diana had been to the establishment before. But this time she didn't stay long enough to eat.
Diana posted on Facebook that after her friends sat down at the table, the waiter asked to see their “proof of residency.” She wasn't there at the time, but when she joined the table the same thing occurred.
At first she thought the waiter was joking. She wrote, in part:
“After fully digesting what he said, we all got up and left to speak to the manager. For a few seconds I thought maybe he was being a smart a** or joking but the fact that he said 'I need to make sure you're from here before I serve you' was completely unacceptable. How many others has he said this too?”
She told the LA Times that the waiter showed no signs of joking:
"He didn’t have a smile. There was no indication that he was trying to make a joke or even possibly flirt with us.”
Diana immediately went and told the manager, who offered his apologies and asked if she wanted to sit in a different section. But she refused and the group left the restaurant.
After posting about her experience on Facebook, her story was shared more than 900 times and picked up by local news stations.
On Monday, two days after the incident occurred, the restaurant management fired the employee and decided to reach out to Diana.
Saint Marc offered to donate 10 percent of their weekend profits to charity and offered to pay for dinner for her and her friends.
Diana declined dinner but asked to donate profits to Orange County Immigrant Youth United.
In a statement, which was sent in an email to Independent Journal Review, the company confirmed that the incident took place:
“In no way are the actions of this former employee representative of the Saint Marc brand nor are they reflective of the opinions of anyone else on our team, including executive management. We have always celebrated being part of the diverse Huntington Beach community, which means valuing all guests and treating every individual with respect.”
They also posted on Facebook after the incident, but the company took the post down after they spoke with Diana, sparking further controversy for people living near Huntington Beach.
Taylor Beyers, a spokesperson for the restaurant, told IJR the post was taken down “at which time we believed the issue was resolved.” The now deleted Facebook post originally read:
“We are deeply saddened by this guest’s experience and have made the decision to terminate the employee(s) in question. This type of behavior is not representative of the Saint Marc brand and it will not be tolerated. We have established our restaurant in a wonderfully diverse community and intend to uphold our standards of universal acceptance. The views of our former employee(s) are not in line with that of Saint Marc, nor will we allow any current or future employee to treat any guests this way in our establishment. We appreciate you voicing your concern and allowing us to resolve this issue with the help of the community, and we’re deeply apologetic to anyone affected. Sincerely and apologetically, the Saint Marc team.”
Beyers also acknowledged that the company should've left the post up for their customers to access:
“In retrospect, we could have left the post up however once we spoke to Diana we were not under the impression she would continue to pursue more coverage as we believed a resolution had been reached.”
Some local customers claim that Huntington Beach restaurants often offer a 20 percent discount to residents if they can prove that they live in the area.
But it's unclear what the former employee's intentions were when he asked the woman to show proof of residency. IJR has reached out to the company for clarification around their discount and has yet to hear back.
Diana has received push back from people who believe her story is “fake news” or that she's posting to receive attention.
She told IJR that the reason she shared the story in the first place was to raise awareness that racism does happen, even in diverse population areas like California:
“It did happen and I am glad it is being shared to bring awareness. These issues exist, they really happen outside of textbooks, and should not be condoned. The fact that people can't believe something like this would happen, so much so that they think it's fake news is exactly why it needs to be shared. Racism is founded on ignorance and indifference, awareness is one of the best ways to combat that.”
LA Times reports that Carrillo's single mother Guillermina Carrillo immigrated legally from Mexico more than 30 years ago and became a citizen. Diana didn't want to tell her mom about the incident but she saw it when it was posted on Facebook.
Guillermina told the LA Times:
“It’s unacceptable. It’s something that shouldn’t have happened, not anywhere, not to nobody.”
While a few people are claiming that they will no longer visit the local high-end restaurant, others believe their actions were more than sufficient to make amends for the controversial actions of a former employee.