Retorts: Cheesy thinking about St. Marc

ST. MARC PUB CAFE in Huntington Beach (St. Marc photo).

Restaurants in the crowded eatery market of downtown Huntington Beach put out a lot of effort to attract and keep customers. Have an unpleasant experience and there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of other places for people to take their business and their appetites.

St. Marc Pub Café, Bakery and Cheese Affinage in the Pacific City development on Pacific Coast Highway ran into a customer and public relations nightmare when a patron reported on Facebook that a server demanded proof of residency before her party could be served.

Diana Carrillo of Santa Ana made that post on March 11 and the news soon went viral, with thousands of shares and articles in The Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times and OC Weekly.

In an article in that latter publication, writer Hairo Cortes of Orange County Immigrant Youth United called Huntington Beach “the neo-Nazi capital of Orange County.” Hey, Hairo! Way to not generalize!

When appraised of the incident, the St. Marc’s management fired the waiter and made a donation to the cause of Carrillo’s choice. The incident has become a bit of a flash point for the larger national – even international – discussion of immigration and race.

Let’s start this discussion with a reality check. The restaurant is responsible for its servers, but it’s impossible to predict what stupid thing or act one of them might do. The server in question was clearly a nimrod and deserved to be shown the door. As a frequent eatery customer – I am not much of a cook, actually – I’ve run into a few idiots, just as one finds scattered in every profession.

It seems as if the restaurant handled the situation about as well as it could have. Bulldozing the place seems a little excessive.

The apparent reason the waiter asked for ID was that the party consisted of a group of Latina women, and the honyocker made the brilliant guess that some of them might have sneaked across the border that very day and made a bee-line for an upscale cheese bakery. As detective work goes, his was pretty stupid. I think (almost) everyone would agree with that.

You can’t judge people – or situations – based on what appears to be surface information. No smart person would make assumptions that lump people into a group without considering them as individuals.

Being of Italian heritage – and a bit brown, especially around summer time – I have been mistaken for a Hispanic personage. I consider it a compliment. Some folks have even tried speaking Spanish to me, although my vocabulary there is limited to “mucho gusto” and “hola.” Oh, and “de nada.”

The incident at St. Marc’s bothers me, but just as much as the notion that it somehow serves as evidence that the community of Huntington Beach is Berlin with a surfboard. Alabama with board shorts. Idaho with artisan cheese.

Hey, look, I just stereotyped. I suggested that everyone in those places is some kind of bigot based on the actions of others. How silly of me. How silly of anyone who does the same thing.

Jim Tortolano’s Retorts appears each Wednesday. Usually.


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