Last week, we told you about Phoenix resident Jeffrey Peterson, who took to social media with a claim that he had been asked to leave Pane Bianco for speaking Spanish. The restaurant, which has been open since 2004, is one of several in town owned by James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Bianco.
On Friday, Bianco responded to the allegation saying he was "horrified" by the incident. Today, both Peterson and Bianco have more to say to Chow Bella -- though the chef says he and Peterson still have not spoken directly to each other.
In an e-mailed statement to Chow Bella, Peterson defends the claim that he was kicked out of the restaurant for talking on the phone in Spanish. He tells Chow Bella he was asked to leave "shortly after buying [his] food and sitting down" in a nearly empty dining room on Thursday afternoon.
Here's Peterson's statement:
Seems quite a few have interpreted my report out of context. You will notice that in the FB post last week, I pointed to a staff member at the restaurant, no one else. I never suggested it was anything other than a problematic staff member. I have lived in Phoenix for many years, and we all know what the Bianco restaurants are, and that's why we love them so much. It was the first time in my life I have been thrown out of a restaurant, and to say it was offensive is an understatement. Never in a million years would I have expected it to happen that way, at that place. I spoke to Seth, the manager, by phone who said the rude employee who asked me to leave is a native Spanish speaker, which makes the situation even harder to understand. Maybe I am at fault for misunderstanding something the worker said to me, but I don't think so. It was an exchange that happened quickly. He looked very angry. I clearly heard him say the words "speak English" and "policy" and he clearly asked me to leave. I have no doubt that it is not the normal business policy of the business or Chris Bianco to ask people to leave their restaurants. However, I saw and experienced firsthand a worker at Pane who was rude, angry, and offensive; not at all a nice person and if my report was indeed made in bad faith as some have suggested, (it was not) Bianco has still not said a thing to explain why I was thrown out. All I was doing was talking on my phone, it was a quiet afternoon, the place was empty; there was literally only one or two other people in the dining room. Trust me, if this had happened to you, if you had actually been asked to leave a restaurant shortly after buying your food and sitting down, you would have been equally as offended and would seriously consider posting a status update that said you were annoyed, also. I asked Seth if he had ever been asked to leave a restaurant or if that specific employee had ever asked others to leave and he said he "wasn't going to have that conversation." I hope someone has a video of the dining room that afternoon so the owners themselves can see for themselves: there is a someone working for them at Pane who is not at all a nice or respectful person. I'm sorry if that report is hard for some to believe or if I am at fault for anything and I understand everyone loves Chris Bianco and rightfully so, I love his food too and that's why I was there..and unfortunately, everything I have written here about the staff member at Pane is true.
In response to the statement, Bianco had this to say:
I have just read Mr. Peterson's response it was well-written, calm, and even constructive . . . I wish I or the manager on duty could been informed in the same manner the mgr on duty could have confronted the server of the allegation, and also on the spot confirm that Spanish or any language is welcome here instead of carrying a misunderstanding with him and causing me and my business to be defending a racist claim.
Mr. Peterson's attorney Ashley has had my personal cell phone number since Thursday afternoon when I had a lengthy conversation with her, which did include an apology to Mr. Peterson for any misunderstanding that made him feel unwelcome in my restaurant and an assurance that this was not a policy and I would continue to look into it. As my GM Seth showed by speaking with 3 people on his behalf about this hours after it happened, including Mr. Peterson, we take the statement that we have a "racist staff member" who "informed me that the dining room is for English speakers only" extremely seriously.
Mr. Peterson is correct when he suggests that he may have misunderstood the situation. We would not, did not and do not discriminate.
Since I began in 1988, I have dealt with misinterpretations, misunderstandings and even mistreating by both customers and employees. These things can happen when communication breaks down. My approach as always has been to meet these issues head on with accountability, gathering all the information from all sides and then acting accordingly.
In closing, I am sorry and apologetic for Mr. Peterson having had a negative experience that left him to feel unwelcome.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.