A popular California coffee chain is up to its eyes in image repair after being accused of booting a customer and her group simply because they were all dressed in hijabs. Sara Farsakh claims she and her headscarf-donning friends were asked to leave the Urth Caffe in Laguna Beach under the auspices of freeing up a table, even though others were free and a group of white women sitting nearby noted they’d been there for a good deal longer. In a truly multimedia Facebook post (800 words of text, two videos, and a picture), Farsakh writes that Urth’s “racist and Islamophobic treatment” turned their fun get-together into “a painful and embarrassing reminder of what it is like to be visibly Muslim — even in liberal California.”
Urth says it was merely informing Farsakh and her friends that they needed to give up their table per a policy written on placards that asks customers to limit their stay to 45 minutes during busy hours. However, it also adds: “If tables are available, you are certainly welcome to enjoy Urth for as long as you desire.” Farsakh’s group protested that the restaurant didn’t look slammed, but she says the server was adamant, so she filmed herself walking around pointing out all of the empty tables. The manager then called the police, who showed up to escort the women out.
Urth’s owner, Shallom Berkman, argues the incident was unfortunate but had nothing to do with their religion — it’s that customers were definitely waiting. “We’re very sorry that she has this feeling that this was something racist, but that is just not the case,” he told ABC 7, adding, “Everybody wants an outside seat.” He also noted that his wife is Muslim (and that he’s Jewish — “We like to say we’re a sign of world peace”), and has offered Farsakh a meal on the house. It’s unclear if Farsakh could be lured back by freebies, but she says she plans to issue a statement through the Council on American Islamic Relations later today.