KCP Exclusive: Sanctuary Restaurant Movement Launches In Brooklyn


If sanctuary cities are the front lines against the incoming Trump Administration’s pledge to round up and deport undocumented residents across the country, restaurants – with the industry’s many immigrant workers – are the front lines of the front lines, and many are now taking a stand through the Sanctuary Restaurant Movement.

The national movement was launched at the beginning of this month as part of an initiative to promote a hate and discrimination-free workplace. In addition, the movement offers support and resources to restaurant workers, employers and consumers impacted by hostile policies and actions, including immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQI people and others.

One initial resturant who jumped onto the movement early was Brooklyn-based eatery Diner. The restaurant is part of a collective of Brooklyn businesses that include Achilles Heel, Marlow & Sons, Marlow & Daughters, Marlow Goods, Reynard, Roman’s and She Wolf Bakery.

“Our position is one of affirming our openness as a business and our need for all people to come and be a part of what we’re doing and sort of to show that divisive rhetoric doesn’t have a place in our businesses and that fundamentally it’s our job to set the tone and include all people who work here,” said Diner Collective Human Resources and Communications Director Leah Campbell.

“After the [Presidential] election we had a very strong amount of feedback from our staff about what they were feeling and seeing and their concerns. And so we wanted to come together as a company to address that,” she added.

Diner’s owner Andrew Tarlow went on to stress that their role in the movement is to create a safe and inviting environment for all people to enjoy food and each other. “I want stick to this idea of inclusiveness and openness and the only way we can see running a restaurant that is based on community is to include as many people from outside the community to be part of the community,” said Tarlow.

The Sanctuary Restaurant Movement is a joint effort between Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC) and Presente.org. Dozens of restaurants have signed on to be a safe space, with a zero tolerance policy for racism, sexism or xenophobia. Sanctuary Restaurants believe that there is a place at the table for everyone.

“ROC has a High Road employer association called RAISE, (Restaurants Advancing Industry Standards). Some of our RAISE members drafted a letter to President Elect Trump asking for a pathway for citizenship for all immigrants. Inspired by their courage, ROC came together with Presente.org to build on the RAISE member’s initiative and create the Sanctuary Restaurant project, which provides informational and rapid response support to Sanctuary Restaurants and restaurant workers,” said Shelia Maddali, Director of ROC of Pennsylvania.

As part of the movement, Sanctuary Restaurants follow some basic tenants, which include, not allowing any harassment of any individual based on immigrant/refugee status, race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation to occur in their restaurant.

They also place a prominent “SANCTUARY RESTAURANTS: A Place At the Table for Everyone” sign in their establishment, offering or obtaining informational support through ROC United, participating in a peer network to exchange ideas and strategies for protecting targeted workers, and experiencing increased patronage and support through an outreach partnership between ROC United and Presente.org.   

The Sanctuary Restaurants movement dovetails on the City officially passing the Sanctuary City resolution last month in response to the incoming Trump Administration in order to protect its immigrant population. The legislation protects undocumented immigrants by not prosecuting them solely for violating federal immigration laws in the country in which they are now living illegally.

The hope of the movement is to create an environment in the food industry that is tolerant and open to diversity. As well, creating a safe space where people of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds can be treated equally and fairly.

“The restaurant industry is an extremely diverse industry. It is the largest employer of undocumented immigrants, and one of the largest employer of Muslims and LGBTQI workers. With a labor shortage already, employers are concerned about a shrinking workforce and about the safety of their workers. Employers have reported staff being tense and terrified and incidents of hate directed at workers based on their identity since the election. Sanctuary Restaurants stepped up now because they felt they could not afford to wait or be silent given the current hostile atmosphere for people of color, immigrants, and LGBTQI members of the community.” said Maddali.