Morton suspenders as campaigners offer cash for SCOTUS sightings

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In a city where the hottest new restaurants offer global flavors, creative cocktails, and seasonally changing menus, Morton’s the Steakhouse Washington location feels like a relic. Its lobster bisque and porterhouse chops hark back to a time when the nation’s capital was still considered a steakhouse town. But the national chain’s downtown location suddenly finds itself relevant, though probably not in the way it might have wished, as the first known DC restaurant embroiled in protests over the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe vs. Wade.

Days after a handful of people gathered outside to protest Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, who dined inside and left through a side door to avoid crowds, the steakhouse smells the heat: A Morton business executive has warned managers across the country to prepare for ‘a massive outpouring … of negative response,’ according to a Politico reportas well as callers blocking phone lines and people making fake reservations.

Brett Kavanaugh latest target of DC restaurant protests

The Post could not independently verify the memo allegedly sent to officials by Scott Crain, the company’s senior vice president and chief operating officer. He did not return an email to comment. He also did not answer phone calls from a cell phone number linked to his name. His silence reflected the advice he would have given to managers.

“As I said yesterday, our comment is still ‘No comment.’ We don’t reply, we don’t retweet, we don’t post on Instagram or Facebook, we don’t do anything. Please remind your teams (especially hourly employees) of this policy,” he wrote to officials, according to Politico.

On Monday morning, Morton’s required a credit card for reservations on OpenTable, although it was unclear whether this was a policy put in place in response to the flood of table reservations with no intention of showing up. .

The backlash Morton’s is taking mirrors what several other restaurants have felt after similar incidents – and it likely won’t be the last establishment to be thrown into the mix. Activist group ShutDownDC tweeted that it would pay restaurant workers to warn them if they spot one of the six judges who voted to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg has suggested further protests are likely. Asked about the Morton incident during a Fox News interview on Sunday, Buttigieg said public officials should “expect” to encounter people irritated by the deer decision – and he suggested they had his support. “Any public figure should always, always be safe from violence, intimidation and harassment, but should never be safe from criticism or people exercising their First Amendment rights,” he said. -he declares.

ShutDownDC organized Morton’s protest last week. The militant group Ruthsentus.com received a tip that Kavanaugh was dining at Morton’s and ShutDownDC activated his network. The first protester arrived at Morton’s within 35 minutes of receiving the tip, according to a ShutDownDC source who exchanged messages with The Post on condition of anonymity due to ongoing tensions around Roe vs. Wade.

Like Morton, the group is likely to be inundated with fake messages. Fox News host and prominent conservative commentator Tucker Carlson urged his viewers to “inundate them with reported sightings until they give up.” The group promised to continue, however. “Honey DC could literally be underwater (#climate change) and we’ll always be here to make the world a better place,” ShutDownDC tweeted. “We’re not the type to give up.”

Protest networks may not be as exploited in the restaurant industry as they would like. Ashok Bajaj told the Post that the SCOTUS judges dined out at Rasika West End last week. He declined to provide their names.

“Nobody bothered them,” said Bajaj, founder of Knightsbridge Restaurant Groupwhich includes Rasika, Bindaas, the Bombay Club and Annabelle.

DC restaurateurs grapple with political protests

Dealing with protesters (and the sometimes long-term fallout from protests) is just one more thing for restaurateurs who, over the past two-plus years, have also had to contend with supply issues, labor shortages, unfriendly diners and ever-changing directives from public health authorities. Bajaj does not yet have plans in place to handle protests at its restaurants, but it said its company handbook prohibits staff from using their phones while on duty, which would theoretically prevent them from contacting organizers if a judge was coming for dinner.

But “how much can you control someone?” Bajaj asks rhetorically. It’s especially difficult for restaurateurs at this time, Bajaj says, when staff are in short supply and they can easily find other jobs. He is unsure how he would treat protesters if they showed up at his front door.

“Every situation would be different. The first thing is that he is a guest. We have to protect the guest. I don’t look at what his politics would be,” Bajaj says. If the protesters “are going to go to the tables and try to harass them, we have to call the authorities. We don’t want fights in restaurants.

Four years ago, after Stephanie Wilkinson politely asked Sarah Sanders, then President Donald Trump’s press secretary, to leave her restaurant Red Hen in Lexington, Va., the owner faced a lot of backlash , including conservative protesters outside his business.

“As long as protesters are out, they are exercising their rights,” she wrote in an email to the Post. “If it’s really causing a disruption – more than just a disruption, let’s say, but a real ‘I don’t hear from my catering partner’ – I would do what we do when there are other unexpected external impacts. on the dining room, such as noisy construction in the street or a thunderstorm that breaks the air conditioning or a table that is not available at the appointed time – lend an attentive ear, apologize for their discomfort and offer them a little something as compensation.”

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