This isn’t the article I wanted to write. I would much rather write about one of the policy proposals I’ve been helping craft. Alas, it will have to wait, for there is a story that needs to be told. Wokeness or Cancel Culture is no longer confined to fortune 500 companies. What began in Georgia, orchestrated by Stacey Abrams, now seems to have infected a small business just across the state line in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The story begins last summer. I was invited by my friend, Roger, to attend the annual GOP Lincoln Day Dinner in Chattanooga. The dinner took place on Friday night, July 31st. Exact dates are important to remember for this story. It was a packed house, all covid precautions were in place, and masks were handed out as we walked in. I had the good fortune to meet Bill Hagerty prior to the dinner and was impressed with him immensely. He went on to win in November and became the junior senator from Tennessee. Diamond and Silk were the evening’s entertainment. I had never heard of them. If you have never seen them, just imagine all the Trump worship of a Marjorie Taylor Greene event but actually funny and entertaining without the craziness and racism. It was a fun night out as political cattle calls go.
The following Monday, August 3rd, Roger sent me a text to let me know several friends were getting drinks at Mellow Mushroom in downtown Chattanooga that evening. Roger lives in downtown Chattanooga. He has a miniature schnauzer that means the world to him. Mellow Mushroom is a short walk from his condo so he was a regular; sitting either at the expansive bar if he was meeting friends like on the night of the third or on the outdoor patio with his loyal companion, Sparky. That night when I arrived, everyone was discussing the Lincoln Day Dinner and talking about politics in general. We sat at the bar and anyone within earshot knew our political affiliations. Another pleasant evening – though the food wasn’t up to the usual Mellow Mushroom quality.
The next day Tuesday August 4th, Roger stopped in briefly at Mellow Mushroom to meet a friend before going somewhere else in town for dinner. On Wednesday, August 5th, news broke that an attendee at the Lincoln Day Dinner tested positive for covid-19. Roger went to his doctor to get tested that afternoon. On Thursday, August 6th, he was informed he tested positive and immediately put himself into quarantine per the guidance of his doctor. Hamilton County did standard contact tracing to alert anyone he might have been in contact with while asymptomatic and unaware.
On August 10th, the Hamilton County Health Department issued a press release stating there was a covid exposure at Mellow Mushroom on August 3rd and 4th along with a list of other locations. The local news reported on the press release. WRCBTV reported the following in an article that mentioned, as a result of the press release, Mellow Mushroom took a 40-50% hit in business.
“Brandy Burgans operates both locations with her husband in Chattanooga. She said her employees also spent several hours deep cleaning their Broad Street location.
‘We do know that it wasn’t an employee because they get tested fairly regularly, we check their temperatures every shift, and we keep a log of all that,’ she said.
Both agree, it’s the reason why they take COVID precautions so seriously, to keep their patrons and employees safe.
‘I’ve told the staff you just have to assume that everybody who comes in has it and may not even know it because of so many asymptomatic cases,’ Burgans added.”
It took Roger a little longer than the quarantine period to recover, but he made a full recovery. Later that fall he learned that he had been banned from Mellow Mushroom. No explanation was offered other than that of a friend who spoke to a staff member and that it was for spreading covid-19.
Fast forward to this past weekend. Roger was asked to join friends and others at Mellow Mushroom on May 29th. Having never been formally given an explanation for being banned, he was told that he was allowed into the establishment but that he would not be served. As one can imagine, this was an embarrassing situation, especially when the reasoning remained unclear.
Roger took to Google and left a review to which the owner responded.
It is worth noting that Jason Jones, husband of Brandy Burgans, and owner of Blue Sky Restaurant Group, LLC received $214K PPP funds last year to pay employees of Mellow Mushroom Chattanooga.
Roger showed the response to me, and after a bit of digging, it all made sense. Roger wasn’t banned because he went to Mellow Mushroom while he knowingly had covid-19. The timeline presented above proves that it was impossible for him to have even known he had been exposed, much less have known he was positive. His test data confirm the dates. A more likely reason for the ban is that his personal political beliefs were not in line with the woke ownership. For evidence of this, I present just a small sampling of tweets and retweets by owner, Brandy Burgans.
Illuminating. For the owners of this Mellow Mushroom franchise, it seems their ideal patrons and the conversations heard in their restaurant would mirror those of the progressive wasteland known as Twitter.
This is America, and we do not legislate individual thought. Mellow Mushroom and Mrs. Burgans are free and well within their rights to refuse service to anyone on the basis of a person’s political beliefs. Poor business decision if you ask me, but they have that right.
Customers have rights too. We have the right to choose a dining establishment where we may enjoy the company of friends and offer our opinions in a public dinner setting without fear of future embarrassment and possible defamation at the hands of a woke business owner fabricating lies to ban a vocal conservative customer. I am not calling for a boycott of Mellow Mushroom. Unlike the owner of Mellow Mushroom, I think listening to and engaging with alternative viewpoints are good and healthy for the preservation of our liberty. Mrs. Burgans might prefer the alternative offered by President Lincoln if she’s going to be in the business of discrimination.
“When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty – to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.”
Chattanooga is a tourism city, and Mellow Mushroom surely depends on customers—conservative and liberal—from Georgia and elsewhere. Don’t let this dissuade you from visiting Chattanooga.
If a restaurant will fabricate a falsehood so easily disproved about a customer like this then it’s easy to imagine other methods they might take in private to express their disdain for a customer’s political beliefs. Rather than worry what happens to my order in the back lest I utter a disagreeable word, I think I’ll find alternative dining options. Conservatives, and anyone to the right of the Twitter psyche ward of political thought, should consider doing the same.
If this is to become common practice amongst progressive woke business owners then we, as citizens, need a political affiliation feature added to Yelp, or we need to develop a similar service. Woke is bad for business and bad for the country.