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Black family at Buffalo Wild Wings asked to move from white man speaks out

The incident made headlines after one woman's Facebook post went viral.
/ Source: NBC News

A family of mostly black patrons who were told to move tables at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Illinois because a white customer did not want to sit next to them detailed how upsetting it was to have to explain the incident to their children.

"We're going into 2020 and we still have to deal with ... racism," Justin Vahl said at a press conference Tuesday. "I have to explain to my 10- and 5-year-old why we have to walk out of a restaurant."

In a Facebook post that has gone viral, Justin's wife, Mary Vahl, said that she and 17 other people were at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Naperville on Oct. 26. The host setting up their table told them that a customer, who was a regular, did not want to be seated next to them because of their race.

Mary Vahl wrote in her post that the group was made up of "minorities, mostly "African Americans" and a dozen children. The party told the host that they would not move tables.

Justin Vahl told reporters gathered Tuesday that they were at the eatery to celebrate the birthday of one of the kids and he felt "disrespected" by the encounter.

"This bigot of a customer did not want us sitting there in a public establishment where we were wanted," he said.

According to Justin Vahl, the customer repeatedly turned around and gave the group dirty looks. Another family member at the press conference, Marcus Riley, said that eventually a manager came and told the group that the table they were at was reserved and they would need to switch to another table.

Again, they refused to move, he said. After that manager and another employee tried to persuade the group to move, the party decided to take their business elsewhere and left the restaurant.

Ashley Smith, another family member at the press conference, told reporters that she was upset her children had to witness this incident.

"To see them try to understand is hurtful because that's something they shouldn't have to do," she said."It's OK to be black. And we're raising them to be that way."

"I won't accept that there are people out there who say that they are wrong," Smith said. "Or don't want to sit next to them."

In a statement issued this week, Buffalo Wild Wings said it had fired the involved employees and "banned the customer who exhibited the inappropriate behavior from all Buffalo Wild Wings sports bars for life."

The company also said it planned to conduct sensitivity training throughout its restaurants in the Chicago area.

"Buffalo Wild Wings values an inclusive environment and has zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind," the statement read.

The group's attorney, Cannon Lambert, praised Buffalo Wild Wings for firing the employees but called out the establishment for failing to properly train its staff to ensure all customers are treated fairly.

"We're not surprised that you are instituting sensitivity training. What we're surprised by is that you didn't have any already in place," Lambert said. "They have the opportunity to be trailblazers right now where they can show other corporate community participants what it is to stand up to racism."