A black woman was asked to adhere to a Georgetown restaurant’s 90-minute seating policy and subsequently claimed racism, even comparing herself to Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks.
The Federalist reported that Kristi Riggs was with some guests at Martin’s Tavern in Washington, D.C., when she was asked to comply with the restaurant’s 90-minute seating policy designed to allow more people to eat at the establishment given the District’s COVID-19 policies that still require restaurants to operate at 25% capacity.
Riggs did not take the request well, accusing two restaurant employees of racially profiling her after they asked her and her guests to vacate so more patrons could be seated. The customers waiting to be seated happened to be two white women, a fact Riggs included in her complaint, the Washington City Paper reported.
Riggs claimed that the restaurant tried to get her and her guests to leave even before their 90-minute window was over and alleged the restaurant didn’t treat a nearby table of white diners in a similar fashion. She also compared herself to Parks.
“I was Rosa Parks at Martin’s Tavern in Georgetown,” Riggs told the outlet. “I was made to get up and leave the restaurant so that two White women could have my table.”
Riggs also told the paper that she complained to Tavern owner Billy Martin Jr. and issued a list of five demands, which she claimed he verbally agreed to but has since ignored. Those five demands are for Martin’s Tavern to:
- Fire the two employees involved in the incident;
- Close the tavern for 1 to 2 days to provide mandatory sensitivity and diversity, equity, and inclusion training to all ownership, management, and staff from a preferred list of Riggs’ suggestions;
- Create ongoing accounts or business relationships with at least three Black-owned vendors who are food/beverage suppliers, maintenance service providers, restaurant suppliers, or marketers;
- Provide regular management training and job placement for Howard University students enrolled in the school’s hospitality program; and
- Make an annual contribution of at least $2,500 to the United Negro College Fund in Riggs’ name.
As The Federalist noted, shutting down the restaurant could hurt Martin’s Tavern, given the District’s continued shutdowns during the coronavirus pandemic.
Thomas B. Martin, attorney for the restaurant’s owner (no relation) released a statement saying they had tried to work with Riggs to reach an agreement:
Billy Martin, Owner of Martin’s Tavern, met virtually with Ms. Riggs, listened carefully to her concerns, and had a positive discussion about charting a path forward. Even through Mr. Martin’s health crisis, he worked diligently in good faith to try to reach a resolution. However, the parties were unable to come together on the terms and wording of the joint statement Ms. Riggs requested. Nonetheless, Martin’s Tavern remains hopeful that a positive outcome may ultimately result from this matter.
The City Paper reported that Martin’s Tavern fired the two employees involved in the incident, but that didn’t satisfy Riggs.
“I’m done being understanding,” she told the outlet. “I’m done giving Martin’s Tavern the benefit of the doubt. I’m finished with that. And if I don’t get satisfaction with this, I will take my offer of goodwill off the table and we’ll handle this differently.”
Martin’s Tavern is a Georgetown staple, serving presidents from Harry Truman to George W. Bush. It is also, according to unconfirmed legend, the location where John F. Kennedy proposed to Jackie Bouvier.