An accusation of racism at a popular downtown Palo Alto restaurant and bar has stunned not only customers, but the 14-year owner who says , if true, it would be the first ever incident of racism at The Old Pro.
Engineering firm consultant, Michael Chae, 30, said he was at his own going away party there on Thursday night with one Chinese-American and six white co-workers when a waitress approached them.
“She asked my Caucasian coworker, ‘Hey are those two guys with you guys?’" Chae recounted. "My coworker said, 'Oh, the Asians?’ She says, ‘Yeah, oh, so those ching chongs are with you?”
Stunned, Chae said he approached the manager on duty. “Her response was unforgettable. It was, ‘Oh, she didn’t mean it that way.’”
The manager did remove the standard group gratuity off the bill. But that wasn’t enough for Chae who posted a long Yelp review the next day, blasting the business.
“That’s when it kinda went off like fire," he said.
In fact, within hours of his post, Old Pro Owner Lisa Chang responded with the following:
“I am saddened and disappointed to hear that our staff treated a customer this way, we have terminated this employee for her actions. As the owner of Old Pro for 20 years and an Asian American, we have and continue to employ a myriad of folks from every race and ethnic background, it is one of the facets that helps to make the Old Pro the success it is.”
Chang admitted to NBC Bay Area Monday that she did not terminate the employee. But after speaking to her staff and Chae, finally let her go on Monday night, she told NBC Bay Area on Tuesday.
She added that in her 14 years there, no one has ever accused staff members of racism. She also said the waitress in question, whose name is not the one used in the Yelp review, has worked at Old Pro for several years and well-liked by patrons.
“It’s very surprising if she did say something like that. It’s really surprising to hear that came from her. We’re still looking into everything so I can’t discuss it too much,” Chang added. “I really just want to get to the bottom of what happened, but I know my staff loves me to death and I love my staff to death.”
The Yelp reviews and Facebook shares started to spread fast. In fact, posts supporting both sides have been non-stop since Chae’s first review.
Chae said: “Word of mouth is stronger than any sort of advertising you can do, so social media serves that purpose.”