Thursday, November 13, 2008

El Coyote Boycott News

I was out of the office yesterday, and so was unable to report on yesterday's meeting between management of El Coyote and local members of the gay community upset about the revelation that a member of El Coyote's family ownership had made a personal, $100 donation to the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign.  I can be saved the time of describing the meeting blow by blow, as there is a factually correct account of it posted on shutupiknow.blogspot.com.

What the report fails to communicate is the level of upset among the El Coyote staff present.  Each and every one I spoke to was visibly shaken, some crying openly.  Each one stated clearly that although they disagree with Margie's personal position on the issue, that it is not the position of El Coyote as establishment or its management, so they do not understand the boycott.  They truly wish everyone could just get along, and allow individuals have their opinions without threatening the well-being of the entire establishment, a gathering place for a uniquely diverse community.  I tend to agree with that sentiment.

That said, it is not surprising that the meeting went the way it did, and it need not have done so.  One important element is missing from the reportage that helps explain why it turned ugly so quickly.  When Sam asked Margie if she would be willing to donate an equal or greater amount to Repeal Prop. 8, she deferred to management.  Management stated "We know Margie is so upset about this, and she would take back the donation if she could."

But when Sam pressed his question, Margie refused to donate a C-note to the opposite side, which would have effectively "taken back" the donation.  The deeds did not match the rhetoric.  I suspect that if Margie had agreed to do this, to put some meat into her apology, the issue would be dead.  But, sadly, it is not.

So... while I think the boycott is misguided, and its energy could be directed toward any number of larger, more complicit establishments, I understand and respect the anger and frustration of the community, and the need to make a visible protest of a visible target.

I had plans to dine at El Coyote tonight, at about 7:00... when the protest officially begins.  I will honor the protesters by not crossing that picket line.  But I will not boycott the restaurant before or after the protest.  The gay (and Other) staff, nearly all long-serving, dedicated employees, and truly wonderful people, depend on my dining dollars to feed their families.  Suggestions posted elsewhere that employees should "get other jobs" truly don't understand the nature of the restaurant: it is a family place in every sense, where owners, customers, and especially staff treat each other like family.  One might as well suggest these employees "get a new mother and father."

You may see me in El Coyote the next few days... you will also see me at the Repeal Prop. 8 rally at City Hall on Saturday.  I truly feel that's a more appropriate place to display our displeasure at the passage of Prop. 8.

23 comments:

  1. Anonymous3:34 PM

    As Marjorie is a member of the Mormon "church," it is my understanding that she is required to give 10% of her income as tithing.

    That would mean profits from gay folk going to the Mormon church on an ongoing basis. That is why I will boycott.

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  2. y knot7:22 PM

    The most disturbing thing about that meeting was the comment from Marjie's daughters(?) where they said sometimes the church tells members how to vote.

    We do not live in a theocracy. But we would if the Mormon leadership had its way. I'm no longer willing to give the church of LDS the benefit of the doubt. It does seem rather cult like to me now in they way it punishes members who don't tow the line.

    Anyone who spends money at El Coyote will be financing the Mormon church and its political activities so long as Marjie is associated with it. So a boycott seems totally appropriate.

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  3. Look, as a waiter myself, I do feel bad for the wait staff. But a boycott is absolutely neccessary because as anonymous said above, 10% of the profits of the restaurant go to the mormon church, which encouraged it's members to donate financially to the passing of prop 8. The boycott is not vindictive, it's just self-defense. I have already talked to my friends, and we are going to enter the restaurant and tip the wait staff without buying any food if the restaurant starts to truly suffer. We have no aims to hurt innocent bystanders, but let me tell you, I checked to make sure my employer did not contribute to prop 8 or I would have been out of there. No job is worth my civil liberties. None.

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  4. Michael7:55 AM

    I had dined at El Coyote every Thursday for at least the last 10 years. It was a very special place. It breaks my heart that my dear friends, the staff, will suffer because of the decisions of Margie. Gay people feel a profound sence of betrayal by what she did. Her donation was small, but when combined with the sheep-like actions of her comrades amounted to 20 million mormon dollars against Proposition 8. The buck stops with her. She is responsible for what has occurred and she must be responsible for correcting this before it's too late.

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  5. I was there last night, and talked to many protesters. I completely understand the anger and sense of betrayal. And axiom, your gesture of tipping the staff while boycotting the restaurant is truly sweet. But for your protest to keep credibility and sympathy, be careful with your facts. Margie doesn't own the place, her aunt -- who is not a Mormon -- does. Margie might inherit the place someday; currently she's just an employee. Asserting that 10% of El Coyote's profits go the Mormon church is absurd.

    That said, I think Margie does have to, somehow, make things right. I'm just wondering aloud... would her donating 100 to repeal 8 be sufficient?

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  6. Anonymous10:52 AM

    Facts

    Marjie does not own El Coyote

    The owners of El Coyote have aggreed to contribute to the repeal of prop 8

    They have also agreed to donate to several gay charities and host fund raisers at the restaurant

    We are all Angry about Prop 8 but stop bullying someone who is trying to make amends

    The choice to not go there is yours but to stand in front and shout shame on you to people who do go there is being a bully.

    El coyote is not the enemy nor really is Marjie

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  7. axiomman12:53 PM

    Jess,

    Are you saying that Marjorie does not profit from El Coyote, and does not tithe 10% of her share to the mormon church? Whether she's the owner or not, it's a family buisness, so she is at least partly owner, correct? I'm not trying to be argumentitive, I'm sincerely asking.

    Whatever the case may be, I still do feel sorry for Marjorie. I have no hate in my heart for her at all. She seems like a very conflicted individual, and I wish her some peace of mind. That being said, all that gay rights advocates (both gay and straight alike) are trying to do is watch where their money goes. There is a lot of hate mongering going around on both sides of the coin, and I am working hard to keep the hate levels down on the no on 8 side of things.

    I don't feel like a boycott can be labeled as "bullying." If protesters are crossing the line and calling names, or even trying to force Marjorie out of the buisness, then yes, and I will be the first person out there to police my own side. And all "other" charities aside, the only real way Marjorie could undo the damage she's done, even slightly, is to donate $100 to the no on 8 campaign, which she already said she wouldn't. This is about gay marriage, not gay tolerance. If the other owners are going to donate to the no on 8 campaign like anonymous has stated, then that is a step in the right direction clearly. Hell, if they give a sizeable donation, they could actually have the reverse effect and increase buisness. But until the question of whether Marjorie donates even some of the profits from El Coyote to the mormon church is answered, most members of the gay community are going to be very hesistant to patronize there.

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  8. Michael1:54 PM

    If Margie is "just an employee" she should be fired for the damage she has done to the business. I've talked to Margie many, many times over the years. She holds herself out as the owner of the place or at least it's agent. As the daughter of the current owner I would be shocked if there was not some trust in place that, effectively, makes her the owner. This is about accepting responsibility for one's own actions and Margie has not done that yet. I also agree that a boycott does not need to be hateful. It is a decision to spend one's money elsewhere. Margie made the same decision about where to spend her money.

    Thanks for your forum. I like your blog!

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  9. Anonymous3:41 PM

    I want to add there's another aspect of this that makes me furious. When I see how much money these churches raised to support Prop 8 my blood boils over.

    Consider how many families are struggling right now because of the bad economy. But gay marriage is the issue the Mormon church chose to organize against? They raised tens of millions of dollars! Think of how many families who are struggling to keep their homes could have been helped with that money.

    Instead of helping those most in need -- a cause that would have united the entire country instead of splitting us apart -- these so-called Christians chose to come out in force to support something controversial.

    If the church really cared about families it would have spent those millions differently.

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  10. Axiom,

    I'm saying I don't know if Margie tithes 10% to the church or not. To assume she does seems to me to be rushing to judgment. Not everyone is perfect in their religious practice; witness the fact that she makes her living at a prominent drinkery, when booze is verboten by her church.

    I also don't know if there is (as suggested on another post) a trust that makes her a de facto owner. It's an interesting question. All I know is what I've been told by management and staff there for many years: she's in line to inherit the place someday, but at present she's just an employee.

    Now if it can be proven that Margie does receive profits beyond her salary, or if there is in fact a trust that does in fact tithe to the Mormon church, that would be a completely different scenario, and a boycott would seem more sensible. But given what we know, I just don't see how you can justify a boycott based on the personal donation of a single (albeit connected) employee... unless the plan is to boycott every business that employs a tithing Mormon until they apologize or are fired? In which case, given the complicity of the Catholic church, you should also be boycotting establishments that employ any Catholics, because they might drop a dollar that used to be yours in the dish on a Sunday?

    That seems to me a divisive strategy at best.

    PS, Michael, thanks for your kind comment about the blog!

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  11. Anonymous7:27 PM

    A very public and targeted example must be made.

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  12. Anonymous7:49 PM

    I think it is disgusting how the community is treating El Coyote over this. The restaurant did not make the donation, one of the managers did and as a gay man, I for one do not support the protest. She apologized and made a donation of $5,000.00 to the LA Gay and Lesbian Center and yet people are still out for blood. This is hurting our cause more then words can say. I marched with 12,000 people last Saturday and now a handful of about 100 people are undoing everything we accomplished by painting us as irrational bullies. What more do they want from this woman? Force her to donate to the "No on 8" camp? That is extortion. Force her to denounce her religion? That is un-American. This is like getting a Big Mac and only eating the sesame seeds off the bun. There are bigger fish we should be focusing on, not what someone associated with one restaurant in Los Angeles did or didn't do. How about the owner of El Polo Loco, who donated thousands of dollars to the "Yes on 8" people? Where are the cries for boycotting those restaurants? When I see protesters harassing people as they go into El Coyote by shouting "Shame! Shame!" at them, it turns my stomach. How do they know whether these may have been people who voted "NO" on prop 8? They don't. This shit is out of control and we are now in danger of losing whatever sympathy to our cause we had and the "Yes on 8" people are LOVING IT!

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  13. Anonymous8:04 PM

    You people make me so sad. I voted no on 8 but I tell you I wish I could vote again. I would have to vote yes.

    You really think this lady does not have a right to her opinion. She hire's gays and works with them. She obviously doesn't hate them.

    How dare you terrorize this woman. You have completely changed my mind on this issue. My sister is a lesbian and she agrees with me. She said she is almost ready to do an about face herself.

    Tolerance? You gotta be kidding me!

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  14. I posted this over on the Infinite Jess blog, but this seems to be the place to be....

    Sometimes drastic times call for drastic measures, and I think targeting El Coyote has a lot to do with publicity for the cause. But it also has to do with a sense of betrayal - like finding out your spouse has cheated on you, as someone used the metaphor last night.

    And I agree with that feeling of betrayal, but after a lot of deliberation, I chose to join Jess at the restaurant last night to support the other wonderful staff. I had the opportunity to talk to some of the folks outside, too, and I'm looking forward to seeing them all at the rally in downtown LA tomorrow, because I believe we are right to protest this heinous piece of bigotry (Prop 8).

    As I mentioned to one of the guys I was speaking with, I'm from Texas, and we just don't have that many gay-friendly businesses there. Darn few on the public scale of El Coyote. So I guess we just don't take them so much for granted, so it seemed to me like a counterproductive expenditure of energy and resources to target El Coyote in the midst of this fiasco. I would rather devote my time to the rally downtown or doing other work for the cause.

    And as for some gay people being racist or intolerant, well, you're going to get a proportion of boneheaded assholes in any group. You would think that a group that is subject to discrimination would be more tolerant of everybody else, but that's often not true - 70% of the record number of African Americans who turned out to vote for Obama voted FOR Prop 8 - voted to actively discriminate against gays, denying them the right to marry whoever they want to the same way they (African Americans) were denied that right in many states until after the 60s.

    You just have to keep talking to people one-to-one and hope that you can get through to them. I hope that someone gets through to Margie on a personal level, because that's what this is ultimately about, and I hope that the other staff at El Coyote don't suffer too much for it in the meantime.

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  15. Tolerant--We say that we’re tolerant went we don't tolerate others views on the subject of guy marriage. You people who are boycotting el coyote should be ashamed. Don't spread your grief (coming from the mode of ignorance) all around. It's just stupid and hateful. This terrorism in our community does not need to exist.

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  16. I have heard that Marjorie is a mere employee of the restaurant. I have also been told that she is a part owner. I don't know what the truth is. I do however know that Marjorie is listed as the agent for service of process for El Coyote with The California Secretary Of State. As an attorney I can state that the person who is chosen by a business owner to be the agent for service of process is most commonly either an attorney or a part owner. While an employee could be selected it would be very unusual unless the employee were the general manager.

    Here is the link showing Marjorie the agent for service of process. http://kepler.sos.ca.gov/corpd.....r=C0537943

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  17. Maybe El Coyote & Marjie need to think about their customers' rights for a while.

    does Lucy's El Adobe still serve those delicious bbq tacos?

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  18. Michael's link to the Secretary of State is broken. You can get there by going here:

    http://kepler.sos.ca.gov/

    and typing in "El Coyote" in the corporation search field.

    It is interesting that she's the corporate contact. Perhaps that's because the owners are elderly, and she, a younger family member, works at the establishment almost every day. Then again, maybe EC is just lying. But I will point out that I've been told for many years that Margie is not an owner; and that was long before any boycott spin.

    It would certainly be worth asking her. Perhaps if she had been allowed to answer more than one question at her brunch before people started hollering "Boycott El Coyote!" and storming out, she might have done so.

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  19. Billy Baughman5:46 PM

    If only this much intensity and dedication went into fighting Prop 8 prior to the election this wouldn't be an issue. The Yes on 8 campaign successfully made the proposition a religious issue. The No on 8 campaign could never effectively communicate what it's really about: civil rights. The gay community and anyone else who believes in equal rights should have stood up and made their voices heard prior to the election. Stop trying to destroy a small business and take this loss for what it is: a call to arms and a chance to show your strength and solidarity.

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  20. Margie DOES hold herself as the official voice of the restaurant. If you go to:
    http://www.elcoyotecafe.com/pdf/elcoyote75.pdf
    to read their own OFFICIAL press release reagarding their 75th birthday, there is one name ONLY listed with the press release, and that is Margie.

    Besides, the last time I ate there the food was awful.

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  21. Anonymous4:10 PM

    ****Attention****: The boycott has stopped. We won. It shows: united we stand, divided we fall. Thank you for all your support in fighting this battle

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  22. Anonymous8:23 PM

    reading all this bickering back and forth, yes on 8, no on 8, blah, blah, blah. as a gay man i voted no on 8 and so did a lot of my straight friends. But to see the hate, the profanites, and vulgarites i've witnessed by my gay brothers and sister in their right to protest is disgusting. almost makes me ashamed to be gay. protesting is fine, but be civil!

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  23. I would like to eat at this restaurant because it looks nice and not expensive.

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