Last December, Atlanta’s famed OK Cafe suffered a devastating electrical fire. The restaurant’s owners vowed to rebuild, and the story served as an inspiring lesson in perseverance in the face of defeat.
Unfortunately the world has changed, and as OK Cafe prepares to reopen, the establishment now faces a foe that nobody would have seen coming months ago.
OK Café features a carving of a 1956 Georgia state flag, which includes the Confederate battle emblem. Owners have said the carving will return when the restaurant reopens in the fall.
Now, Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) is calling upon OK Café co-owner Susan DeRose to keep the flag out of the building. Fort plans to attend Tuesday’s 8 a.m. Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau meeting, where he will try to persuade chairman Daryl Evans and president and CEO William Pate to consider the possible economic impact of the flag’s presence.
In a letter to Evans and Pate, Fort wrote that he hopes to “avert embarrassment and loss of revenue for the Atlanta convention business.” He said he believes the “Super Bowl and other major events would almost certainly” not come to Atlanta if the Confederate flag is allowed to return to the OK Café.
Fort’s letter says, in part:
I note that Ms. DeRose’s restaurants are prominently featured on the ACVB website, and I presume she and/or her restaurants are members of ACVB.
When a former patron brought the offensiveness of the display to the attention of Ms. DeRose and asked that it not be displayed when the OK Café reopens, she told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “It’s a part of my history, and my history has absolutely nothing to do with prejudice against anyone.”
Despite Ms. DeRose’s role as one of the most prominent restaurateurs in Atlanta, she is planning to continue to display the 1956 Georgia flag when the OK Café reopens. I would like to address the August 18 meeting of the Executive Committee of the ACVB to urge you to persuade Ms. DeRose to not display the 1956 Georgia flag when the OK Café reopens. Should the OK Café continue to display this divisive symbol, I would ask the ACVB to remove any reference to them from websites and publications. I will also ask that the ACVB take proactive steps to alert future conventions and their attendees to the embarrassment that they may face if they patronize Ms. DeRose’s restaurants.
On his radio show on Monday, Erick Erickson reminded his listeners that Fort’s attempt to bully DeRose could largely prove ineffective:
A state senator is going to harass a business that provides jobs to Georgians of all races – black, white, Hispanic… [Fort is] going to tell the state that you’re not allowed to talk about a business because of this flag. That’s just bullying.
But here’s the thing: the OK Cafe, I doubt is getting a flurry business from tourists to Buckhead. No. No, no, no, no, its business was local, as was its clientele, and it will resume, and it will fly that flag. And I’ll be sure to eat there regularly, just so they understand that some of us are willing to stand with them – whether we agree with them or not – against the bullying of a state legislator who wants the state to come after good private citizens employing other citizens.
Vincent Fort is bullying a private business… That’s too much power in the hands of one person.