News & Politics

Restaurant Bans Elected Official After Nosy Bartender Reports His BLM Comments on Facebook

(Image credit: Mission on the Bay Facebook profile)

Imagine going out to dinner one night, and then finding out parts of your conversation were posted on Facebook the next day by the restaurant’s bartender, or your waitress? Well, that’s exactly what happened to Selectman Donald Hause from Swampscott, Mass., and the comments he allegedly made sparked controversy and potentially a recall effort.

The controversy started when Erik Heilman, a bartender who was working the [Mission on the Bay] restaurant’s outdoor dining area last Thursday, made a post on the private Facebook group Swampscott 01907. Heilman alleged he overheard Hause call the Black Lives Matter movement “liberal bull****” and say white privilege is not real. Heilman said he was “distraught” hearing the comments, and made the post because he wanted to “inform” the community about the thoughts of an elected official.

On Facebook, Hause called Heilman’s account inaccurate and defamatory.

“I was working so I obviously wasn’t able to hear every word that was said, but every time I walked over I was dumbfounded by the things I was hearing these people just casually throw around as if nobody could hear them,” Heilman said.

The gossipy bartender was subsequently fired. Restaurant owner Wellington Augusto explained the decision on Facebook:

Hospitality is about welcoming people and giving them space to feel comfortable. There has always been an unspoken code in the hospitality industry, that customers’ personal conversations and information are kept private. In the age of social media, that code is no longer unspoken but an agreed upon understanding outlined in the employee handbook of Mission On The Bay. “Employees may not post any information online about our group, our employees or clients without the prior approval of their manager.”

All guests entering are entitled to a certain level of privacy from our staff. While we are a “public” space by definition; our employees are expected to respect such privacy. At the end of the day we cannot allow our staff, while actively working in our establishment, to post information about our guests online without permission. This is true for everyone – be they public figures or otherwise.

However, he quickly backtracked a day later. “Out of frustration caused by the post by my employee, Erik Heilman, I took action too quickly and let go of him rather than engage in conversation and speak with him about his concerns,” Augusto wrote. “This was a mistake; as we can not hope to learn from one another by acting out of anger or in haste.”

Augusto then praised Heilman for “creating a dialogue,” and followed that up with the announcement that Donald Hause was now banned from eating at the restaurant.

[Heilman] has created a dialogue within the town and is fighting to hold public officials accountable for their words and actions at all times; not just when addressing the public.

It is with that in mind we no longer can welcome Don Hause into our establishment.

Mission On the Bay has always, and will continue to always employ inclusive hiring practices.

Here is the entire post:

As the Owner of Mission on the Bay and a proud member of the Swampscott community, I have taken time to reflect on…

Posted by Mission on the Bay on Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Hause maintains that Heilman’s account of what he said was inaccurate.

“My family and I have been disappointed and hurt by the insinuations in the original post by Mr. Heilman and many of the follow up comments by his supporters,” Hause explained in a post on Facebook. “None were there that evening and do not know me but have immediately rushed to judgment.”

“The conversation I was engaged in on Thursday evening was at a restaurant with friends and was an ongoing discussion which included many topics of the day such as the Black Lives Matter movement, politics, media coverage, the police, and re-opening businesses,” Hause said. “At one point, I shared my personal view that I believed the rioting and looting was hurting the Black Lives Matter movement and its core message.”

“Mr. Heilman only heard portions of a conversation and his accounting of the event is not accurate; nor is his depiction of me or my views. Other than the few occasions when he was actually at our table, for the most part, Mr. Heilman knew little of the context within which anything was being said. However, he has taken those sound bites and used it to try and define and defame me,” Hause continued.

Hopefully no one takes my delay in responding to the recent postings as indifference. Given the importance of the…

Posted by Don Hause for Swampscott Selectman on Tuesday, June 16, 2020

So this is where we’re at as a society? You can’t express a legitimate opinion in a restaurant without worrying about getting banned? I thought businesses couldn’t refuse to serve the public for any reason?

The owner of the Mission on the Bay restaurant credits their gossipy bartender with “creating a dialogue” within the town, but then banned Hause from their establishment. What kind of dialogue can there be if those on one side of an issue aren’t allowed to speak?

That’s not dialogue at all.

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Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis