After a Pompano Beach man felt disrespected at a Lantana restaurant Saturday, he did what many people in 2014 would do. He posted it on Facebook.
What happened next surprised him.
Robert Thompson’s post was shared more than 100 times, a re-post of his message was shared nearly 1,500 times and a new group called “Protest Key Lime House in Lantana, FL” got more than 2,300 “likes” in its first day.
“I’m in shock that it has gotten to this point,” he said.
Thompson, who said he’s a 20-year Navy veteran, was wearing his American Legion motorcycle vest Saturday. An assistant manager at the Old Key Lime House made him take it off because the restaurant has a policy against motorcycle vests and patches because of its image as a family restaurant.
Thompson took off the vest and his group ate without incident, but when Thompson approached the assistant manager about the policy he said the man was rude.
Thompson said he told the man that didn’t belong to any motorcycle gang, he just wanted to wear his American Legion vest. He said the manager then rolled his eyes, telling Thompson he didn’t care.
“That’s a slap in the face to any vet,” he said.
A manager at the restaurant said the incident boiled down to a misunderstanding and poor judgment by the assistant manager.
Katherine Kenyon said the policy against vests and patches has been in place for about 10 years, but it does not apply to veterans in American Legion attire. She said the assistant manager, who does not usually interact with customers, was “out of line” and has been suspended indefinitely without pay.
“It is our fault, and we apologize for that,” she said. “We welcome all vets on motorcycles.”
Thompson said he wants the restaurant to issue a public apology and hold a bike night fundraiser that will go toward military charities of his choice. He said he works directly with the Heroes Entering Life’s Opportunities Foundation and Military Heroes Support Foundation, both of which he said give 100 percent of money to veterans.
The restaurant team is willing to give Thompson both requests, Kenyon said. Thompson is planning to speak in person with the owner, Wayne Cordero today.
Both Cordero and his daughter, whom Kenyon said are also veterans, called Thompson to apologize and talk about the incident.
But the protest page still exists.
Some people on the page are planning a ride-by protest for Friday around 6 p.m., but Thompson said he never wanted it to get that far.
He said he felt disrespected at the restaurant, but Thompson is giving the owner the benefit of the doubt because he wasn’t there. He said he doesn’t want the restaurant to lose business and close.
“I don’t want the doors to shut down because of this,” he said. “I don’t want people losing their jobs.”
Several comments on the page include screen shots of a page called “Old Key Lime House” that has all-caps posts attacking the bikers. One post — that was later deleted — says the restaurant doesn’t like “loud stupid bikers.”
Kenyon said that is not an official page and wasn’t created by management. She said they didn’t own the page or have any control over content.