BLAIR COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) – A Pennsylvania restaurant is facing backlash after a racial slur was printed on a receipt and handed to a customer.
The customer, identified only as Kassie, said she ordered a blackened chicken panini at the Aviation Inn in Duncansville and said the bar went silent when she walked in to pick it up. As a woman of color, Kassie said she was used to the treatment.
“People kind of stare at you being the minority and not the majority,” Kassie said.
What Kassie wasn’t expecting though was to look at her receipt to see the N-word. After calling the restaurant, she said one of the owners, Allen Butterbaugh, told her the slur was used deliberately but as a joke and she wasn’t supposed to see it.
“He did tell me that this was a joke amongst the kitchen, and he said it got out of hand,” Kassie said.
“It was embarrassing to me. It was hurtful. I did not find it funny.”
She said the owner claimed he told the employee not to put it on the receipt, but the employee told him he’s not racist, so he could do that, justifying it by saying he hangs out with minorities, so he’s “a brother.”
Despite reservations, Kassie told her story on Facebook.
“I was afraid of the backlash. I was thinking of the establishment as well. I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I didn’t want this to get out of hand. I was also afraid for myself,” Kassie told WTAJ.
While receiving messages of support, Kassie said she’s also gotten messages telling her to watch out.
Kassie said she would not go back to the Aviation Inn, but she wanted to leave the restaurant with a word of advice:
“Let’s just do better.”
The owners of the Aviation Inn spoke about the incident, saying the connotation was far from funny or acceptable and that they don’t condone the attempt at bad humor.
“I was blown away. Completely blown away and my first thought is, ‘This is crazy. This is absolutely not good. This is terrible,'” Allen Butterbaugh said.
The slur on the receipt would have been intentionally and manually entered since, Allen Butterbaugh explained, the area where it appeared is for order modifications and prints in red instead of black.
However, the owners said they don’t appreciate the negative light in which they have been seen since the incident.
“You can tell people about it instead of sharing it. Just talking to them and saying, ‘Did you see what happened?’ Not going there again instead of sharing it and sharing it,” owner Maureen Butterbaugh said.
“We’ve gotten backlash, we’ve been getting calls and phone threats. So many messages via Facebook coming out. Borderline harassment,” Allen Butterbaugh added.
This all comes after the Aviation Inn put out a public apology, one that NAACP President Andrae Holsey, who called the incident “appalling,” said wasn’t enough.
“I hear through the grapevine that the employee was not terminated until WTAJ called, which is interesting. I believe the apology could’ve been more thorough. Just saying that I promote diversity and I hire minorities isn’t enough,” Holsey said.
Holsey said actions speak louder than words and that this isn’t a singular accident, it’s just one where the slip ended up in the bag.
Holsey asked that the community rise above this incident.
“The purpose of all of this is not to sink one individual’s life. We don’t want to restrict the business from being able to operate in the community or that individual from being able to live their lives. We want them to realize that what they did was wrong. But we also want to build them up to continue to do right in the future.”
NAACP President Andrae Holsey
Holsey said the NAACP will be conducting an investigation into the incident. He said he hopes to sit down with the owners of the restaurant to discuss new policies in an effort to create change.
“We have all kinds of diversity programming. There are different options through HR programs for your business,” Holsey said. “There are ways to engage the community in minority-centric events or just come to one of our open member sessions. Engage the people of our branch and the people of our community so that you can better serve without stigmas.”
When asked what changes they’ll make moving forward, Maureen Butterbaugh said she didn’t feel like it needed to be said to not do something like that.
“We’ve employed so many people before, and it’s never happened before, so I guess we could look into that. It never even crossed our minds that it was something we’d have to say, ‘We’ve always been inclusive of everyone,'” she added.