Usually restaurants are too busy serving food and mopping up messes to get involved in politics. But this election cycle has seen a Tennessee bistro turn away a homophobic state senator and a chicken chain toss big bucks toward anti-gay groups.
A Queerty reader tipped us off to one Minneapolis eatery that’s really dishing up equality: Hell’s Kitchen (left), the subterranean restaurant and club where the waitresses wear pajamas and the decor has a sort of Anton LaVey gothic charm.
One of the busiest joints in the Twin Cities, HK sponsors the North Star Roller Girls, a roller-derby team that’s standing proudly against Minnesota’s proposed amendment banning same-sex-marriage.
The measure, which would change the Minnesota Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman, is one of the most distressing battles for equality in the nation: In a May 2011 poll, opponents of the referendum lead 55% to 39%. In July 2012, the balance shifted to 52% of those polled supporting the ban and 37% against it.
Those are hard numbers to swallow.
Apparently a customer at Hell’s Kitchen who supports the amendment threatened to boycott the eatery because it backed North Star’s “Vote NO” campaign. It’s not just that Hell’s Kitchen’s owners didn’t back down that earned our admiration—they made one of the most powerful statements about equality, dignity and community that we’ve ever seen a business commit to.
Here’s what they penned in an open Facebook letter to “RB”:
Last week, when you threatened to boycott Hell’s Kitchen if we continue to support the North Star Roller Girls because of their “Vote NO” stance on the marriage amendment vote, we were taken aback.
Not because you said you’d announce your boycott via Facebook, tweets and calls into local conservative radio shows, but because you were obviously unaware of Hell’s Kitchen’s fierce, longtime support of the GLBT Community. We haven’t just supported the “Vote NO” stance, we’ve embraced it. And we haven’t just embraced it, we’ve also walked the talk by throwing a fundraiser for it as well.
Our employees and 12,448 Hell’s Kitchen Facebook Fans may or may not agree with us, but they know exactly where we stand on this issue. We seem to be in good company because General Mills, IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Google, American Airlines, Gap, Nike, Amazon, T-Mobile, Thomson Reuters, RBC Wealth Management, REI, and hundreds of other businesses have also refused to be bullied. They, too have stood up for what the United Nations calls basic human rights. The exhaustive list also includes schools (Augsburg, Capella, U of M, etc), cities (Duluth, St. Paul, Minneapolis, St. Louis Park, Edina, Falcon Heights, Golden Valley, Maplewood, Crystal, Robbinsdale, Mankato, Shakopee), and more and more numerous churches.
Of course we risk alienating certain customers by so publicly getting on a soapbox, but interestingly, when General Mills announced its opposition of the amendment, their stock price shot UP. When NOM called for a boycott of Starbucks, a “Thank You Starbucks” Web campaign received more than 650,000 supporters, while NOM’s “Dump Starbucks” campaign has received about 45,000.
Yes, we realize the amendment has a good chance of passing, which in our view would be a crime against human dignity. Regardless of the final vote, Hell’s Kitchen (and Angel Food Bakery) always have and always will truly love, embrace, and supports the right of our GLBT employees, customers, and community to live authentic lives. We’re proud that Minnesotans from all walks of life have always felt at home here, and will continue to work hard on behalf of ideals dear to our hearts. Are you aware of our strong support of Minnesota farmers each and every day, or that we throw open our doors to a different Minnesota charity every Monday night?
In closing, while we’re proud of our damn good food, our extraordinary staff and our truly unique environment, we all believe that what has really made us Minnesota’s busiest restaurant (and one of the most successful independently-owned restaurants in the country) is how active we try to be in the lives of people across our great state.
Warmest personal regards,
The owners and/or founders of Hell’s Kitchen and Angel Food Bakery
Cynthia Gerdes, Mitch Omer, Steve Meyer, Kim Meyer, Tony Perella and Katy Gerdes
Now that’s something we’d like to see on more menus. (They didn’t mention it, but Hell’s Kitchen also supports Minneapolis Pride and the Gay Softball World Series.)
If you live within driving distance of the Twin Cities, drag your 14 closest friends and have a big ol’ feast at Hell’s Kitchen. (Bonus: The food is incredible.) And if you don’t, you can still like their Facebook page or send them a nice thank-you email or other tip of the hat. As for us, we’re gonna order some Hell’s Kitchen sausage bread and homemade peanut butter.
We’ll suffer the calories for a good cause.
Photos: Hell’s Kitchen, Inc.