A gay customer accused the owner of a legendary Westlake District eatery of homophobia during LA Pride weekend. However, Norm Langer, owner of the 72-year old Los Angeles landmark Langer’s Delicatessen-Restaurant, vociferously denied the charges.
Rachel Curry, one of the two women customers involved in the incident, alleged in a lengthy statement to the Los Angeles Blade Thursday evening that Langer had “kicked” them out of the restaurant for “being gay.”
“Last Saturday, the weekend of L.A. Pride, I was kicked out of Langer’s Deli for being gay. My date and I had finished eating and we shared a kiss in our booth. Suddenly a man with a walkie-talkie was standing at our table. He introduced himself as Norm Langer and told us that he ‘can’t have this in his restaurant because some of the customers don’t understand,’” Curry said.
“I told him I would never come there again, and that I lived in the neighborhood and I used to like that place. He told me I was being selfish and inconsiderate of how other people felt as he stood there with his walkie-talkie waiting for us to pay our bill and leave. I was in shock, this experience felt violent and wrong and was traumatic for both of us. I just want to raise awareness that this space is unsafe for LGBTQ+ people in an effort to prevent future harm to others. Please spread the word not to support this business,” she said.
Curry’s accusations were picked up by film critic and entertainment journalist April Wolfe who tweeted: “A woman I know just posted that Langer’s Deli in LA asked her and her date to pay and leave, because the two women kissed, and the owner said they weren’t respecting that other customers “don’t understand.” It’s disappointing.”
Langer strongly responded on the deli’s Facebook and Twitter pages, saying in part: “Langer’s Deli is open and inclusive to all people. Anyone who comes to our family restaurant is treated equally and with respect.”
Langer told the Los Angeles Blade on Friday that being characterized as an anti-LGBT bigot is simply false, he has LGBT employees who are “valued members” of his team.
“This [accusation] bothers me,” Langer said. “I wouldn’t have lasted [in business] if I was a bigot. Seriously, if I was anti-LGBT, it would have surfaced a long time ago. I mean, I’ve been working here since January of 1963. I wouldn’t have LGBT employees [who are] working for me now.”
Langer disputed the description of the incident. He said it had occurred over a 35 minute period and progressed from the occasional affectionate kiss, “a peck on the cheek,” to a full blown display of public affection of snuggling and making out that “went beyond what I find acceptable for a family restaurant, especially in a public dining room, which is why I walked over to their booth.”
According to Langer they were sitting next to each other, side by side, in a booth.
“I have certain policies,” Langer told the Los Angeles Blade. “I walked over to the table and introduced myself as the owner, told them I was glad they were here but ‘it’s not really a place to make out.’ Like I said on Facebook/Twitter, we’ve had a long-standing policy against ‘making out’—doesn’t matter if they’re straight or same-sex couples.
“I have stopped heterosexual couples from making out, and I don’t care if, say, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were making out, I’d stop them, too. The policy applies to everybody,” he said. “It’s a family restaurant.”
Curry has a different perspective.
“Norm Langer has accused us of making false accusations and tried to cover up his actions by claiming this was simply about a public display of affection (PDA) policy and not tied to homophobia,” Curry said. “It was perfectly clear to both of us that when he approached our table in an authoritative manner and told us that he ‘Can’t have this behavior in his restaurant’ because his ‘customers don’t understand’—he was saying that his customers and/or himself did not want us being visibly queer in that space and that we weren’t welcome there because of it.”
Langer said that’s completely wrong. From the moment he walked over to request that the women refrain from “making out,” they were confrontational, he told the Los Angeles Blade. “Look, part of this, I think, was my walkie-talkie, I’m sure. But it’s partly a prop because I want to make sure that customers don’t think I’m just another customer. But also, I use it to communicate with my bus help, staff—we get very busy, crowded.”
“Perhaps Langer’s does have a policy about PDA, but that was not what was communicated to us and that’s not what this was about, or at least not the only thing it was about. If this was simply about an across-the-board PDA policy that had nothing to do with the fact that we were two women, it could have been handled completely differently and we would have respected that,” Curry wrote.
“Mr. Langer did not inform us of a PDA policy and politely ask that we respect the rules of his establishment or anything along those lines. He never said the word “policy” or mentioned “public displays of affection,” Curry added.
“I totally support the LGBT community. I have LGBT employees, including my cashier who is lesbian and now even she and her partner are taking heat for this incident unfairly,” Langer said. “I did tell them [Curry & unnamed date] my policy and they immediately were antagonistic. They asked if I was against the LGBT community, and I told them ‘No I’m not.’”
The controversy sparked a #BoycottLangers image on Twitter.
“We are aware that calling for a boycott could impact employees more than owners, but like in past queer boycotts of products and businesses, the queer community are not a significantly large population that will affect staffing. We are calling for a Boycott to call Mr. Langer out and put him and his biased behavior on notice,” Curry wrote.
Langer told the Los Angeles Blade that he is greatly dismayed by the accusations and the backlash.
“I have gotten 20 calls—more. Mostly guys, but all negative against me over this,” Langer said. He also noted that many of his longtime customers, including those who are LGBT, have been supportive. He hopes people will listen to his side of the story.
One of Langer’s customers, openly gay IT/HighTech Web Engineer James Barro, addressed Norm Langer’s statement on Facebook and pointed out: “I’ve been here before, and on hearing the report, I had to check. Thank you for addressing this directly. My boyfriend and I will see you soon, and will not make out.”