Fat Joe’s in Fond du Lac. Photo: Google Maps

On Saturday, Brittany Spencer was working at Fond du Lac, Wisconsin’s Fat Joe’s Bar and Grill when she heard customers make what she says were transphobic comments. The disparaging remarks were made by an elderly couple that Spencer was serving and about an individual she believed to be transgender. When the server asked the restaurant’s co-owner, Whitney Wallander, if someone else could serve them, she says she was given two options: serve them or go home. She left the restaurant, posted about the incident on Facebook, and was subsequently fired, prompting a wave of criticism toward the restaurant.

According to the Fond De Luc Reporter, Spencer said that she heard the couple call the other customer “disgusting,” asked her if she agreed, and said the person (who was part of a group of three customers) shouldn’t be allowed to eat in the restaurant. The bigoted remarks were too much for Spencer, who in her initial, now-public post wrote, “at least I stand by morals.”

Screenshots of the post were shared with Whitney and her co-owner Tad Wallender, after which Spencer was fired. She posted again to Facebook, writing “I’ll always choose my morals over money” and asking people to leave reviews on the Fat Joe’s Facebook page. As tends to happen now, the Facebook page was flooded with negative reviews, prompting the Wallenders to shut down the page, and its Yelp page is being monitored because of similar reviews. The Wallenders said that on Monday morning they received a dozen threatening emails.

Speaking with USA Today Network-Wisconsin, Tad Wallender said, “We don’t take a stand” on customers’ conversations, and “we’re just here to serve food and drink.” This is an appeal to neutrality, a statement about choosing not to be political. That in itself is a political statement, and Spencer has argued as much. Tad also told USA Today that the Facebook post was the reason behind Spencer’s firing, because it was unprofessional. But Spencer said she was told she was fired for refusing to serve the couple, noting that she wasn’t even asking for the customers to be kicked out.