Portlanders on the internet are calling the owners of James Beard nominated Russian restaurant Kachka ‘Nazi sympathizers,’ Rawstory reports. The restaurant is co-owned by Bonnie Morales, a Jewish chef whose family escaped the Holocaust, and her husband Israel Morales.
On Tuesday, Kachka diner Deavon Snoke posted a photo on Facebook of a customer wearing a shirt like this with the Luftwaffe iconography representing the air force that was active in Nazi Germany.
World War II iterations of the Luftwaffe symbol included a swastika. In a recent Facebook post, Kachka owners said, “We were not aware of the perceived symbolism on the shirt.” Eater has reached out to professors of Holocaust and genocide studies for commentary on the iconography in question.
The incident, however, has stoked a heated debate among Portlanders on social media. Snoke’s Facebook post, which has been removed, alleges that she was kicked out of Kachka for calling the man out in the restaurant. The post had been shared almost 500 times as of 10:51 a.m. Thursday.
“I was asked to leave Kachka tonight for calling this Nazi out,” Snoke wrote. “Memorize the symbolism on his shirt. Yell as loud as you can.”
The restaurant denies that they asked Snoke to leave.
As the post started to circulate, comments on the restaurant’s Facebook posts (now deleted) included screenshots of the man wearing the shirt, calling the owners “Nazi sympathizers.”
Almost 24 hours later, Kachka’s Facebook page posted this response:
“It is our understanding that a customer dining at Kachka was wearing a t-shirt with symbolism on it that another group found to be offensive,” said the Morales’ in a Facebook post. “Kachka has always and will always stand for tolerance, respect and diversity, and will never support or tolerate hateful groups or behavior. These inaccurate social media comments are deeply troubling to our family as survivors of such hate and against everything we stand for.”
Comments on the restaurant’s response have been mixed, ranging from support to outrage. Multiple commenters challenged the response, expressing outrage at the restaurant’s choice to call the patron “libelous.”
“So just to be clear neither of the owners was present yet they have no problem calling the OP libelous which is a very serious offense,” wrote Facebook user Theo Joire. “Regardless as to whether your staff told her to leave, the man in Nazi apparel stayed.”
“‘Perceived symbolism of the shirt...?’ I’m sorry, but as a fellow Jew who lost the majority of her relatives in the Holocaust, I literally cannot even begin to fathom why you are choosing this wishy-washy language and this non-stance on a rather obvious issue,” wrote Facebook user Suma Jane Dark.
User Alicia Marie offered a compromise:
“I stand with Kachka AND I will punch Nazis in the face,” Marie wrote.
Israel Morales told Eater the team has added the Anti Defamation League’s list of Neo-Nazi symbols at the host stand to more readily identify hate symbols.
“Our fear is that this misinformation could cause discriminatory groups to think Kachka is a safe haven, which it most certainly is not,” Morales wrote in a statement to Eater. “We would like to reiterate that we never kicked anyone out for speaking up, we had no idea what the symbol on the shirt meant, and if we had known, we would not have served him.”
This story will be updated as new information becomes available.
Correction: March 17, 2018, 7:30 p.m.
The headline of this article has been corrected for clarity.