This story has been updated.
First it seemed the main strategy for tomorrow’s #ADayWithoutImmigrants strike would be for restaurants to close their doors, signifying that it’s impossible to do business without their immigrant workers. Chef José Andrés kicked off a string of closure announcements yesterday when he announced that Zaytinya, Oyamel, and all three locations of Jaleo would be closed. Busboys & Poets, Brookland’s Finest, Bub & Pop’s, Hank’s Oyster Bar, Himitsu, andmore have followed suit.
But what if immigrants want to work? Not all restaurants that are closing are being forthcoming with information on whether their workers will be paid while the restaurants are closed. Pizzeria Paradiso, which is closing its Georgetown and Old Town locations, will pay its employees. So too will Bub & Pop’s.
But José Andrés? On NPR today Robert Siegel asked Andrés if Thursday is a paid day off. His response: “At the end of the day, they are the one’s deciding, they’re very proud to take an action on what they see as an unfair situation.” He tells City Paper that he has employees who have been with him 25 years and they’re like family. He says they decided to demonstrate and that’s why he’s closing his restaurants. Andrés adds that he’s supportive of the pride they feel, saying they don’t want pity, they want respect. Additionally, Andrés notes that China Chilcano is open tomorrow and welcomes employees from other restaurants that want to work.
As Thursday draws nearer, restaurants continue to make tough calls. Some restaurateurs have gone to great lengths to interview their employees for feedback. Paul Carlson of The Royal and Vinoteca called each of his employees scheduled to work Thursday to ask them what they’d like to see happen. His employees are all choosing to work tomorrow. Carlson, whose mother is Colombian, has decided to participate in the movement by donating a portion of Thursdays proceeds to Ayuda—a nonprofit that supports immigrants locally.
He’s not the only one. Cotton & Reed, Room 11, Timber Pizza Co., Beau Thai, Dino’s Grotto, Ambar, Garrison, and ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar will also donate a portion of sales to Ayuda. For example, ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar will be open for bar service with a limited food menu and will donate 10 percent of sales to Ayuda. “ANXO stands with our immigrant staff, friends, and community in fighting for the rights of every individual, no matter their country of origin,” says co-owner Rachel Fitz. She says the restaurant’s staff comes from El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, and Spain. “Without them we cannot run this restaurant.”
Colada Shop is taking a similar approach. The new Cuban restaurant off 14th Street NW will donate 10 percent of total sales tomorrow to the ACLU. “Colada Shop stands in solidarity with our immigrant community,” says Colada Shop partner Daniella Senior. “We hope this national momentum brings to light the great contributions of immigrants to this country.”
Izakaya Seki’s organization of choice is the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. In addition to announcing they’ll be donating a percentage of their sales, the restaurant posted a note that says “Izakaya Seki will be open tomorrow but we stand in solidarity with our employees many of whom are immigrants.”
Still other restaurants are choosing to stay open without making donations. Some, like Cava Grill, will call on their office team to roll up their sleeves and work in the restaurants for the day to cover for employees taking the day off in demonstration. “Our frontline team members are an integral part of the Cava family,” writes CEO Brett Schulman in a statement. “We support their right to protest and have worked with them to schedule any time off to exercise that right. Our Support Center staff stands ready to help out in our restaurants in a show of support for our team members.”
Fat Baby Inc. restaurants (Proof, Estadio, Doi Moi) will also be open, but serving limited menus. The group issued a statement saying the limited menus will reflect “the full reality of how important the immigrant population is to our culinary operations.” It continues: “Service will not be as seamless as usual, and our menu offerings will not be as broad.”
Indeed, diners booking any table tomorrow night shouldn’t expect business as usual.