A number of Santa Barbara restaurants are closed Thursday, February 16, as part of a social media-fueled “day without immigrants” spreading around the country. Workers in many industries are protesting President Trump’s policies on immigration.
Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach and its sister restaurants Fish House, Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, and Casa Blanca are all closed on Thursday. Los Agaves Restaurant, Enterprise Fish Company, Arnoldi’s Cafe, Cesar’s Place, Lily’s Tacos, Taqueria Cuernavaca, Mayo’s Carniceria & Tacos, La Super-Rica Taqueria, Live Oak Cafe, Sly’s, Jeannine’s Bakery, and Los Arroyos appear to be closed as no one answered the phones there.
A number of employees at Boathouse asked the management to close the establishments on Thursday, and owner Adam White decided to do so to stand in solidarity with them.
“I didn’t set out to make some sort of statement,” White said. “I’m just trying to show support for my guys. These are good people. They pay their taxes. They are not taking any jobs away from anyone I grew up with.” A graduate of Santa Barbara High School, White opened Shellfish with his father in 1999, when he was just 19, and he has since expanded to three other locations. He estimated they’d lose $45,000 in total sales on Thursday.
The national boycott took off quickly on social media. After White heard through the grapevine on Wednesday that a number of his employees were not planning to show up to work the next day, he did “some soul searching,” and decided to close all four joints. Of his 260 employees, he estimated about a third are first or second-generation immigrants.
White told his staff that he welcomed anyone disappointed with the decision to speak with him. But so far the response from staff has been “overwhelmingly heartfelt” and supportive. “We have the same guys in the Fish House kitchen that we did 10 years ago,” he said, adding, “I feel like no one understands the American Dream like the non-Americans.”
Boathouse also posted a photo to Facebook: “We apologize to our loyal customers for the short notice, but as a statement of our commitment to our employees, our families and what we believe to be the spirit of America, we will be closed tomorrow, February 16, 2017.”
The photo text, which was posted last night, has more than 650 likes, and dozens of comments, almost entirely in support of the decision. One negative comment read, “They apparently support the illegal alien invasion and sanctuary for criminal alien. Never eating there again … ” and it unleashed a long chain of arguments about the restaurant industry’s reliance on the immigrant community. One person identifying herself as an employee, wrote, “ … all of our staff are here legally this is about HUMAN rights and treating each other with Respect.”
Child care centers across the country have closed as well. Preschool teachers at Canalino Elementary School in Carpinteria did not show up on Thursday. The elementary school is open.
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