Restaurants throughout Oakland will be closed today as they join Day Without Immigrants, a national day of protest against President Trump’s immigration policies.
Administration promises to tighten border security, build a wall and severely limit travel from seven Muslim-majority nations have alarmed the immigrant community. But it was the recent actions by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, including the arrests last week of 680 people, that spurred employees and businesses to act.
The strike is meant to show just how reliant the nation is on its immigrant community, business owners told Hoodline.
“This country would have a very hard time operating as it does now without immigrants,” said Eric Wright, director of Bar Cesar on Piedmont Ave. Like many Bay Area restaurants, a large percentage of his employees are immigrants.
News spread primarily via word of mouth and social media. Many managers found out about the strike shortly before it was scheduled to occur.
After being approached by staff yesterday, Andee Brown, general manager at Doña Tomás on Telegraph Ave., watched media coverage and restaurant participation snowball. By yesterday evening, it was clear that Doña Tomás would join.
“I had to call about 10 or 12 reservations last night and tell them that we would be closed,” said Brown, "but every one was really supportive. We all knew that it was the right thing to do.”
Closing a business, even if only for a day, represents a significant loss of revenue. “It’s not a decision that we make lightly,” Brown said, “but we do feel that this is a really important issue.”
For many, making a statement comes with a cost. “The reality is that some folks, primarily tipped employees, can’t afford to strike,” said Rick Mitchell, owner of Luka’s Taproom. Restaurateur Chris Pastena's Calavera, Lungomare and Chop Bar will remain open with a pared-down menu and will donate a portion of today's proceeds to the ACLU.
America cannot be great without immigrants. #ADayWithoutImmigrants— Lungomare Oakland (@LungomareOakJLS) February 16, 2017
Even successful restaurants run on thin margins, so today's closures will be felt by owners — as well as employees, many of whom rely on tips. Regardless, showing solidarity with immigrants was worth the sacrifice, said Wright.
“All of our staff scheduled to work today, and some who weren't agreed this was the right move to make,” he said.
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