Over the past week, much controversy has surrounded local restaurant Big Chic Uptown after two employees posted a photo of another employee, Jesse Garmon, on Instagram without his knowledge. The issue arose after one of the employees wrote “look at that monkey,” as a comment on the picture, which was later shared throughout Facebook. After seeing the picture online, a group of concerned citizens organized a peace rally last Saturday, January 18 and Monday, January 20, calling for citizens to boycott the restaurant.
Kimberly Walker, who was one of the citizens at the rally, stated the group was holding the event in support of Mr. Garmon and they wanted justice to be served. When asked to elaborate on what exactly they wanted for justice, Walker stated they wanted the employees to be fired and an apology to be issued to Mr. Garmon for the disrespectful comments that were made.
She continued saying she had called and spoken with owner Lisa Barfield about the matter prior to organizing the rally to let her know that she did not appreciate the comments and thought something should be done to the two employees. Walker alleged that her concerns were blown off and she was told that the employees all joke around with each other, calling each other names.
Walker also stated the group will be back every Saturday until something is done.
Participants at the rally on Monday stated Mr. Garmon has not told them how he feels about the incident, however, they were trying to be a voice.
“This is not just about him, it affects all of us,” said Walker. “If you feel like he is a monkey, then you think I’m a monkey too.”
Another participant at the rally, Kenne Walker, is shown in the photos holding a sign for English’s Café. When asked what that had to do with a boycott of Big Chic, he stated if Big Chic was not going to do anything about the matter, then he would tell people to spend their money at English’s because they will treat everyone with courtesy.
According to their Facebook page, Big Chic Uptown had the highest record for Saturday sales last weekend when the first peace rally was being held. The restaurant was closed on Monday when the other rally was held.
The City of Thomaston Police Department was on hand at each rally to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Chief Dan Greathouse stated no arrests have been made at either event, with there being roughly 30 participants in the rally on either day. Greathouse noted the group had a right to have the peace rally as much as the business had a right to be open and the officers on site were just there to keep an eye on things and make sure nothing got out of hand.
In response to the issue, owners of Big Chic Uptown, Lisa and Tracy Barfield, issued the following written statement.
“As most of the community knows, the past two weeks for our Big Chic family have been challenging. The events on Saturday, January 18th have reminded us how loyal our customers are and how blessed we are to live in Thomaston, Upson County.
“We, the owners of Big Chic Uptown, have taken the events on January 8, 2014 very seriously. We investigated the incident involving the inappropriate conduct of two of our employees thoroughly and fairly, and we appreciate everyone giving us the time to do things in our own way, in our own time, and allowing God to lead us to a decision.
“While we stand firm in our belief that there were no ill intentions, we have made the decision to take appropriate disciplinary action against those two employees.
“We offer our deepest apologies to the Thomaston, Upson County community on behalf of our employee’s inappropriate actions. The two employees made apologies to their co-worker on the day of the incident.
“We pray that we can move forward in providing our excellent service and serving up some of the best chicken around. Again, thank you for your love and continued support.”
Ashley Biles can be reached by calling 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @AshleyBiles1.