A vegan restaurant said a now fired employee’s behavior was “foul and unprofessional” after he secretly filmed customers and used homophobic and racial slurs to describe them. That employee is the owner’s son.
The worker at Vegginini’s Paradise Cafe in Detroit filmed patrons Shayne Starr and his boyfriend from afar on Friday and posted the video (which reportedly has been removed) to his Instagram page. (According to Click on Detroit, the Instagram page is now private.) In the video, the employee describes Starr as looking “like a f***ing vampire” and refers to another patron as “this ugly-a** n***** right here.”
Starr, 24, a makeup artist, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that he visited the restaurant because a queer friend raved about the kind staff: “I researched their mission and thought it would be a safe space for me.”
On Sunday, Starr posted details on Facebook and a recording of the video, revealing that he felt uncomfortable “immediately upon entry.”
“We sat down, and the entire time we were there, I could see the employees inconspicuously talking amongst each other and staring but I ignored them as I talked to the lady I believe to be the owner, who was waiting on us,” Starr wrote. “When the owner was done and rejoined the other employees, she had her back turned to me, on her phone, shaking her head and the others kept turning and looking at me. I assumed they were being rude and talking about me but I tried to ignore it. As someone who has been openly queer their entire life, I’m no stranger to this kind of treatment from people.”
Starr said a waiter served them a smoothie saying, “Here you go, one smoothie for you … uh, gentlemen,” and maneuvered his body to put the maximum amount of distance between him and the customers.
“I ate so fast it made my stomach hurt because I could tell they just wanted me to leave, as all their customers had weird looks at me too,” said Starr. “I had my boyfriend go up to the glass and pay because I was too anxious about doing it. I left feeling like a freak and an oddity. I usually feel this way 99% of my time out of the house, and I’m usually unbothered.”
On Saturday, Vegginini’s apologized on Facebook, posting, “Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and should be made aware prior to being recorded. The employee responsible is being held accountable for his actions and we as a family business are extremely displeased.” Customers were also invited to share their feelings.
An announcement came later that the worker, who Starr alleged was the restaurant’s social media manager, was no longer employed.
A representative of Vegginini’s did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.
“When a friend told me about the video, I wasn’t surprised — and that’s sad,” Starr tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I should feel destroyed, but this happens so much I am emotionally dead to it.”
“Friends have tagged me in social media posts — they know who I am — but no one has contacted me to apologize,” Starr tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I’m really surprised by the number of people who have defended me. I feel alone so often, but I’m getting a crazy amount of love. Everyone deserves to be treated with love. You may not accept me, but I am no exception.”
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