A local anti-racism group on Saturday morning will demonstrate at Fred’s Breakfast Club in New Hope to protest the restaurant’s response to customer complaints about an offensive sign displayed there.
A photo of the sign, which tells a joke about a dog owner applying for welfare on behalf of his pets, was first posted Tuesday on Facebook by a member of the New Hope & Lambertville Community group.
“This morning I went to sign my dogs up for welfare,” reads the sign. “At first the lady said the dogs are not eligible to draw welfare. Then I explained to her my dogs are mixed in color, unemployed, can’t speak English and have no idea who their daddies are…my dogs get their first check Friday.”
Reaction to the sign on Facebook was fast and furious, with hundreds of responses decrying the racist stereotypes underlying the attempt at humor, and a sizable number railing against what they perceived as the oversensitivity of those complaining.
“I have a great idea. Maybe Fred’s can setup a crying room for all the offended flakos,” read one post. “If your [sic] offended, do the rest of us a favor and stay away.”
“You are welcome to take a tour of our business and see if you can find anything else that offends you or you can get over it and have some pancakes,” Fred’s Breakfast Club posted in response to a customer complaint on its Facebook page.
Not surprisingly, the backlash against Fred’s only increased, with more and more Facebook posters calling for a boycott of the restaurant, and ownership appearing to dig in their heels and make light of the growing furor.
“Now that we seem to have everyone’s attention, we will be extending our season on the patio with fire pits, we are adding a market to Fred’s for those who would like to purchase pre prepared breakfast lunch and dinners as well as to go,” Fred’s posted in response to a reader asking about the controversial sign.
A subsequent post that appeared to be authored by Fred’s owner Chris Bollenbacher announced that the offensive sign had been removed, but stopped short of an apology.
“It will make you all happy to know that a person near and dear to my heart, a Fred’s member has come and removed the sign,” read the post on the Fred’s Breakfast Club Facebook page. “For those of you who don’t know me and my 45 years of service to the community, volunteerism, contributions, and employment of literally thousands, who think my desire to not censor a members contribution to our walls makes me a bad person then I support your right to vote with your feet.”
Bollenbacher was not immediately available for comment.
“They had a so-called member take down the sign,” commented one Facebook reader responding to a copy of Fred’s announcement posted on the Bucks County NAACP page. “They couldn’t even take it down themselves.”
“To every person of any color, gender, orientation, and those affected by hate who feel demeaned or unwelcome by the content of the application, we are deeply sorry,” read the message on Fred’s Facebook site, where posts had swelled to over 800 by Friday morning, when the page appeared to be disabled. “It was never our intention. Please accept our sincerest apology.”
Many saw the reaction to Fred’s apology by the restaurant’s supporters as more disturbing than the sign in question.
“At this point it’s more about the public’s response to the reluctant and self-serving apology than the hesitation for it, or even the sign that spawned the need for it,” said Kevin E. Leven, a leader of Bucks County Anti-Racism Coalition and organizer of Saturday’s protest.
The demonstration will begin at 10 a.m., according to Leven, and participants should meet at east Randolph and North Main streets, wear a mask, and follow social distancing guidelines.
Organizers stressed that their goal is creating a dialogue, not confrontation.