Honey Butter Fried Chicken is the only Chicago restaurant part of a new national group of eateries banding together to create safe havens for immigrants, Muslims and LGBTQ communities—all of which make up much of the industry’s labor force. Honey Butter’s Josh Kulp and Christine Cikowski anticipate other Chicago restaurants will eventually join as Sanctuary Restaurants, a new campaign launched by ROC United and Presente.org. The inaugural batch consists of 24 restaurants across the country, aiming to “resist hate and harassment” in the industry.
Sanctuary Restaurants want to combat the spread of bigoted rhetoric, and they’ll offer resources to restaurant owners, employees and diners to do so. Much of that rhetoric increased during this last campaign cycle. Kulp is quick to point out that Honey Butter isn’t singling President-elect Donald Trump or his supporters out. Though Trump’s been harsh with his words about immigrants and Muslims, it’s unclear what policies he will actually pursue.
“We don’t want to be divisive,” Kulp said. “We want to put forth a positive message.”
Kulp wants to make sure his employees can “chase their dream regardless of their background.” That’s regardless of their gender, religion, race, sexual orientation, economic background or political affiliation. The policy extends to refugees, a frequent topic during the Presidential campaign.
Honey Butter’s participation grew out of their affiliation with RAISE, which is part of ROC United. The union-friendly Restaurant Opportunity Center advocates for better working conditions and pay for restaurant workers. The other partner, Presente.org, is a group which advocates for Latinx, a group that includes Hispanics who are trans, queer, agender, non-binary, gender non-conforming or gender fluid.
RAISE did pen an open letter, signed by many restaurant owners, to Trump. The letter asks Trump to stop using deportation as a tool of fear: “As fellow business owners dependent on immigrant inclusion in our workforce, we ask that you defend the unity you called for in our industry and our country. “
Over in Avondale, Honey Butter has served acclaimed fried chicken since 2013 at their restaurant. They’ll have signage showing off their affiliation as a Sanctuary Restaurant. While there are no other Chicago restaurants onboard, the Zingerman’s family of restaurants in Ann Arbor, Mich. are, as well as COLORS in Detroit and New York.
Kulp and Cikowski said they didn’t see any negatives in participating as a Sanctuary Restaurant. They’ve been vocal in preserving their workers’ rights, serving locally on the mayor’s working families task force.
“It’s a natural step in the right direction,” Cikowski said. “There are more things we can do in making a safe haven for the community, and of course we will do those things, but this is the first step.”