The owner of Pleasant House Pub, an acclaimed Pilsen restaurant, responded to allegations of racism after a customer accused the restaurant staff of mistreating a black woman. The woman, described by owner Art Jackson as a “regular non-customer,” was asked to leave on Thursday after sitting at a table without ordering food. Another customer saw the incident and published her account of what occurred on Facebook on Thursday. The post drew social media outrage and prompted Jackson to explain his restaurant’s side of the story on Friday afternoon.
The Facebook poster, Niketa Brar, the executive director for Chicago United for Equity — a not for profit that focuses on promoting racial justice in Chicago’s schools — wrote that the other customer and a member of Pleasant House’s staff “went back and forth for a minute, during which I tried to overhear the context and realized that the woman wanted a warm place to sit and figured the restaurant was hassling her about not buying anything. I asked her what she wanted and asked the server to put it on our bill.”
Brar posted that she ordered a burger for the woman in hopes that she could remain at the restaurant. But instead, she wrote, the staff packed the burger in a to-go box and asked the customer to leave. Brar felt white customers were getting preferential treatment alleging Pleasant House had “repeatedly chosen to shuffle out black faces, choosing to ‘protect’ their white customers from the discomfort of having to see poverty instead of doing something about it.”
Brar’s post brought out Facebook users posting negative reviews on Pleasant House’s page. One review read: “Place is racist: prioritizes the comfort of white middle-income patrons over serving the community.”
That prompted Jackson’s reply on Friday afternoon: “I want to be very clear that racism or discrimination of any kind is absolutely not tolerated in our restaurant. This is something we take very seriously, as being a good neighbor is at the very core of who we are.”
He also provided background: “The guest you’re speaking of is a regular non-customer at PHP who we’ve unfortunately had negative incidents with in the past. It’s our job as small business owners to ensure the safety of all of our guests and it’s with that in mind that we do our very best to handle any potentially negative situations as best we can — while always showing respect and compassion first.”
As for what Pleasant House could do in the community, Jackson wrote: “This is unfortunately a larger issue than this individual instance and we welcome conversation on how we can all do better to support our neighbors and be better for each other.”
A few came to Pleasant House’s defense: “The people at Pleasant House are the most inclusive/compassionate people you’ll ever meet. Please give them a chance and hear their side of the story before passing judgment.”
Pleasant House opened its Pilsen location in 2016 after serving customers at its Bridgeport location for five years. The restaurant specializes in British-style savory pies. The pies are also found frozen in supermarkets like Local Foods in Lincoln Park. It’s a regular member of the Michelin Bib Gourmand list.
Brar didn’t immediately respond to Eater Chicago’s request for additional comments. Jackson said he didn’t have any more to add.