This past Saturday evening, Brandon Gonzalez was working his shift at the Hole in the Wall Pub on U.S. 1 and SW 144th Street in south Miami-Dade County. The 25-year-old bar back was about to deliver a plate of blackened chicken wings to a customer when he noticed a phrase printed in red underneath the order on the ticket: "I CANT BREATHE."
Gonzalez thought his eyes were deceiving him until the sports bar's co-owner made it clear to the kitchen staff. "I initially brushed it off as a mistake, but the owner came into the kitchen and mentioned the joke to the kitchen workers," Gonzalez tells New Times. "They just looked at him."
Gonzalez says the man, who he knows only by his first name, "Sam," explained that he'd typed the order into the ordering system that way as a joke.
Gonzalez says he finished out his shift, collected his tips, and quit.
"I work a tipped job. He's the owner and he could have done anything he wanted with my tips. I couldn't just leave after working eight-plus hours," he explains, adding, "I don't want their money anymore. I don't want anything to do with them."
But Gonzalez wasn't quite through dealing with Hole in the Wall. When he left, he took the receipt with it and posted it on Twitter, writing, "Yesterday I was at work and my boss, hole in the wall co-founder Sam, thought it’d be funny to change the 'Blackened' wings to 'I Can’t Breathe'. Attention miami locals do not support this disgusting establishment. I quit today. #BlackLivesMatter."
Yesterday I was at work and my boss, hole in the wall co-founder Sam, thought it’d be funny to change the “Blackened” wings to “I Can’t Breathe”. Attention miami locals do not support this disgusting establishment. I quit today. #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/iqam1glm4V— B (@teaslicker) June 21, 2020
New Times reached out to Hole in the Wall's ownership for comment early this afternoon but has not received a response. [Click to see update below.]
Sam Diedrick, who is listed in state documents as an owner of Hole in the Wall, posted an apology on his Instagram and Facebook accounts, stating: "I want to apologize for my insensitivity in a lame attempt at humor. My intentions were never to offend or make any employee or customer uncomfortable. I will take this incident and learn from my oafish behavior. I truly am sorry."
Both of Diedrick's accounts have since been set to private.
Gonzalez says he had worked at three of Hole in the Wall's four locations since January without incident.
"I worked at the Kings Creek and the 184th Street restaurants where there are Black people in the kitchen and they are my friends. I'm a minority myself and I know what they're going through," Gonzalez says, explaining that his background is Mexican and Nicaraguan. "We've been talking about this whole movement ever since George Floyd was murdered. "You don't make a joke about the movement when most of your kitchen staff is Black. I felt like ignoring this would be disrespectful to my friends and everyone who is part of the movement. I just had to leave.
"These jokes aren't taken lightly," he adds. "I know that joke came from a place. Everyone that lives here locally needs to know what kind of establishment this is."
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Gonzalez says his stance met with a lot of positive responses — and a new job.
"It's crazy. Someone contacted me with a kitchen job at a camp in New Hampshire for six weeks. They even offered to fly me up there."
Gonzalez accepted the offer to summer in New England. He says he might have another position awaiting him when he returns to South Florida. "Another person messaged me about a position in a restaurant in downtown Miami. Honestly, I have a great deal of support."
Update published 6/23/20 11:15 a.m.: Hole in the Wall has published an apology on its website: "The management of Hole in the Wall Pub is disgusted about what occurred. We apologize to our customers and employees. It is reprehensible and goes completely against our values. We have taken immediate action by suspending Mr. Diedrick. We will be engaging directly with each of our employees to listen to their concerns and explain to them the steps we are taking to ensure this never occurs again." [Click to return to story.]