© 2022 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

NDO Debate Reignited At Popular Southtown Restaurant Taco Haven

Ryan Loyd
TPR News
Protesters stationed themselves across the street from the taco joint on Sunday.

The debate over city council recalls and San Antonio's non-discrimination ordinance erupted this weekend at a favorite Southtown Mexican food eatery.

The ordeal made for a spicier than usual Sunday brunch at Taco Haven, after an online posting about the establishment went viral.

Michael Cepek wrote the comment that seems to have set things in motion on Yelp, the online review site, recounting his Nov. 8 visit to the restaurant in which petitioners seeking the recall of Mayor Julián Castro and District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal had been "invited" to station themselves in front of the restaurant in order to drum up support for their cause.

Anti-LGBT activists have targeted the two for removal from office after they led a successful effort to extend the city's non-discrimination ordinance to the LGBT community -- adding gender identity and sexual orientation to the list of protected classes in the city.

Cepek also took umbrage over a bar chalkboard promoting "straight" shots, writing that the word "straight" was underlined and in all capital letters. Cepek wrote that it seemed the owners of Taco Haven were actively supporting the opponents to the non-discrimination ordinance.

The Torres family, who owns Taco Haven, said this is all a misunderstanding, according to Allen Parker, an attorney for the family.

Credit Ryan Loyd / TPR News
TPR News

"There was a sign but it's always been there," Parker said. "They serve straight shots on certain days. That's like a tequila that's a drink name. It was not formed for homosexuals or anything."

Parker emphasized that a straight shot special is not one for a straight person, but rather a straight shot of alcohol.

Parker leads the Justice Foundation , a nonprofit public-interest litigation firm focused on limited government, free markets and religious liberty. Parker also spoke at rallies against the non-discrimination ordinance before it passed a city council vote in September.

Regardless, the offending straight chalk board is now erased.

Cepek's review caught the attention of non-discrimination ordinance supporters, and it spread like wildfire on social media. Erin Susan Jennings protested outside Sunday and let lunch brunch patrons know she and her group don't appreciate the message.

"Taco Haven appears to have embraced [the anti-LGBT group]," she said.

While Jennings and her group were protesting the recall, petitioners had moved from the front of Taco Haven and set up across the street.

"They preach violent, hateful discriminatory rhetoric," Jennings said. "They spread a lot of misinformation and lies."

At times both groups yelled back and forth to each other. Jesse Reyes, with the River City Tea Party, said Taco Haven got caught in the middle of this mix-up.

Credit Ryan Loyd / TPR News
TPR News
Petitioners for the recall of Mayor Julián Castro and Councilman Diego Bernal said their protests have helped them gain signatures.

"They were innocent people," Reyes said. "They had nothing to do with this. If they had a real problem they should take it to city hall or city council. They really feel like they're being harassed. Why are you going to pick a fight with a taco stand?"

On the porch of the restaurant, members of the Torres family sat and watched each group. They didn't want to be recorded, but they said they believe this will blow over and things will soon return to normal.

Jennings believes the fight for civil rights will continue.

"It was a very, very hard struggle to get the NDO passed in this city," she said. "We all fought very hard for this. There was so many roadblocks along the way."

Parker said the Torres family is a traditional Roman Catholic unit but they're not interested in promoting any social agenda or forcing their views on anyone.

They simply want to serve good food, he said.

"Just because you allow people to exercise their civil rights does not mean you're a hater," Parker said. "In fact, we need to allow each other to agree to disagree on these important issues and allow civil discourse to occur."

Nevertheless, the Torres family is being chided for not taking a strong stand in support of the LGBT community. They are finding out that there is no room for politics on the Taco Haven menu.

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.