Courtesy of Ashley Christensen
Yesterday, a customer at Chuck's—the cheeseburger portion of Ashley Christensen's three-eatery empire
at the corner of Wilmington and Martin streets—decided she did not like the restaurant's new bathroom signs. After House Bill 2 passed, Christensen's team added "People Room"
signs in all of its spots, from the coffee shop Joule to the flagship Poole's.
Perhaps in town for yesterday's HB 2 rallies, or perhaps simply not familiar with Christensen's general approach, someone took offense and, through a Facebook message, told Chuck's and Christensen to take them down. "Return it to the way things were before," the customer wrote, "or you will not be getting any business from me or any of my friends."
Boo-hoo! Christensen—a longtime local booster of progressive causes and a veritable charity powerhouse—ostensibly shrugged, laughed, and then penned a response that is more eloquent than "Get lost" but certainly no less impactful.
It's reprinted below, with Christensen's permission.
Thanks so much for your feedback. While we appreciate you taking the time to voice your opinion, we will not be changing the signage on the bathrooms. As a company, we strive to impact our community for the better, which means taking a stand against discriminatory actions (such as HB2), even at the threat of losing your business. Please note that the restrooms in question are single-occupancy, so there's no situation in which someone would be made to feel uncomfortable by the presence of others (of any gender), regardless of his or her beliefs.
I find your response quite puzzling, as we have provided bathroom accommodations that not only are considerate to all members of our diverse community, but are also more efficient for the many, many guests who we take great pride in feeding. Our bathroom lines are shorter, and all of our guests feel welcome and safe. For nearly five years, we have offered unisex bathrooms in our bar Fox (an offering that has never inspired any negative response or any incident.)
I’m actually not sure if you have visited the restaurant recently, or perhaps just heard of the updates to our bathrooms through a secondhand source who shares your unjustified fear of the impact of a unisex single occupancy bathroom. It’s important to point out that the bathrooms are labeled People Rooms, not (as you titled them in your message) People Only. You personally have added in the word “only,” a word that clearly highlights discrimination when it enters the conversation of human rights and equality. There was a time in history where the word “only” appeared on bathrooms, and that’s a time that I, and many others, are incredibly happy to have left as part of our nation’s past. Though you have requested that we return it to the way things were before, we are proud instead to take the road forward, the road that is known as progress.
We have received hundreds of “thank you” messages from our community on the renaming of our bathrooms, all conveying gratitude for creating a safe and welcoming environment. These notes come from married couples, teenagers, grandmothers, gay, straight, and transgendered persons… every community member you can imagine. You ma’am, are the first to reach out and convey disapproval of this decision. Though at first I found it concerning and disappointing that you think and feel this way, once I thought about it, I actually feel quite grateful for your message. As we work to take action in our community on issues like childhood hunger, cancer research, education for children with developmental disabilities, and human rights… some folks are more interested putting their energy into the way things were before, and limiting the rights and freedoms of others because they make you uncomfortable. I want to thank you for conveying your opinion, because it reminds me (as a community leader) of how important it is to encourage all of the people in our community to vote…a right that we as women didn’t always have.
I also think it’s important to share with you that anyone who has fought to contribute to our community by opening a restaurant has met far greater challenges than your threat to no longer eat our hamburgers. We wish you the best in your quest for the next great cheeseburger, with bathrooms that make you more comfortable with who you are. I also hope that you can channel your energy into something positive in our community. I have to tell you, there’s no feeling greater than making a difference for ALL of our community.
Though I will leave your name out of the message, it is my intention to share this correspondence publicly. I think it really solidifies how important it is to get out and exercise our hard-earned right to vote, and to help our state and our country to continue on the path forward and not to be stuck in the narrow-minded state of the way things were before.
Though you have said that if we don’t abide by your request (which we will not), you will no longer be a guest at our restaurants, I would still like to share with you our company’s vision statement, as I believe it could benefit you in your path forward…
To create a seat for everyone at the table through genuine, hospitality-driven experiences that celebrate the people and places of our community.
Best of luck in your future dining adventures.
Ashley Christensen + AC Restaurants