Last night I got a message from Jerry Torres, one of the owners of Taco Haven, saying their one and only statement would be forthcoming in a column by Express-News columnist Gilbert Garcia.

Garcia posted it in the later part of his column without comment, after a very good column on how JFK’s visit to San Antonio affected a couple of local people. Reading the statement (printed after the jump), it’s really hard to determine if the Torres family really moved from the position I realized earlier this week.

Yes, I know they have no problem accepting the dollars of LGBT patrons. They’ve done it for years. After all, they’re located in Southtown. But they tried to mask the fact they also support groups opposed to the LGBT community, including on their business property. So did anything really change with the statement?

Here’s the statement from Torres, as printed in Garcia’s column:

Throughout our history, we have openly welcomed people of all religious beliefs, political backgrounds and sexual orientations. If you have eaten here, you know this to be true!

Recently, an employee expressed personal comments that do not reflect our views as a family and as the owners of a business. That employee has been reprimanded.

We try to stay out of politics, but when friends have asked us to place their campaign posters up or to allow them to sign petitions, we have sometimes accommodated those personal requests, as well as requests by a wide variety of organizations to sell items on our property for fundraising purposes for educational and community causes.

Now, because of our open attitude to community requests, we find ourselves caught in the middle of a volatile political debate going on here in San Antonio.

We stand by our 45 year history of equal service to all! We, the Torres family, want to make clear that we have never denied service to anyone! Our business is open to all people, and we both welcome and embrace the diverse people who walk through our doors.

When I read it last night, I went over what Torres was trying to communicate, looking at it from different angles. I wanted to understand if the family had changed positions from what I surmised in my blog entry, or just reiterated that position, in pretty cryptic terms.

If things had changed, I was ready to issue a retraction and apology of misrepresenting their position. But, in light of the prior history and the slowness to come to this position, my feelings about their position are still the same. I stand by my assessment.

Taco Haven in Southtown, 1032 S. Presa St. Photo by Randy Bear.
Taco Haven in Southtown, 1032 S. Presa St. Photo by Randy Bear.

In the days leading up to my blog entry and this statement, I had dialogue with several people closely connected to the family, including a few close friends and extended family members. In that dialogue I suggested a path forward, recommending quick action on some parts.

The family had several missteps through the process that sent signals to the community about how they stood on the issues. Those included allowing the recall petitioners on property, not directly addressing why they were allowed on property, retaining the attorney who served as spokesperson for the NDO opposition faction, and making statements to a conservative blogger that focused more on their right to oppose the LGBT community.

My path forward included the following five steps:

  1. Terminate the relationship with Allan Parker as spokesperson since his prior history sent the wrong signals to the community. His language with NPR’s Ryan Loyd on Sunday was just more code words for “religious liberty.”
  2. Discipline the manager who allowed the recall petitioners to remain on property and exhibited a supportive attitude of them when questioned by patrons. After all, he had damaged the brand by his actions.
  3. Issue a statement supporting the ordinance and publicly opposing the groups attempting to recall city council members. Include in that statement apologies to the community for the message communicated by prior actions, stating those actions were not supported by the restaurant.
  4. Have Jerry Torres communicate all messages to the community directly, instead of through a third party spokesperson, to avoid misleading statements. The spokesperson should be present but not speak for the family.
  5. Host a Coffee with the Councilman to demonstrate public support for Council Member Diego Bernal and allow the restaurant to open its arms to the community and invite dialogue.

None of those actions were taken for the longest time, further complicating the message being sent by the restaurant. It was almost like they were hoping this would all blow over and everyone would just go back to business as usual.

The problem is that business became all but usual when the recall petitioners were invited. The message was sent that Taco Haven may support having LGBT patrons spend money at the restaurant, but the restaurant would support causes opposing that community.

Reading Torres’ statement, that position is echoed in it and nothing has really changed. In other words, you can wash away actions with a few confusing words. It takes more actions to counter and correct the past. Taco Haven does not feel that is necessary.

While I appreciate they do not deny service to anyone (actually, they can’t now that the ordinance is in place), they still feel that they have a right to oppose the community as a business.

Randy Bear is a 20-plus years  San Antonio resident, transplanted from Little Rock to join the ranks of USAA in Information Technology. Over the last two decades, he’s been involved in a variety of civic and political activities, including work with San Antonio Sports, KLRN, Keep San Antonio Beautiful, and Fiesta San Antonio. Randy’s political life took root when several friends from Arkansas pulled him into the first Clinton presidential campaign. Since then, he’s been active in politics and government, including a brief period serving on the staff of former City Councilman Reed Williams. 

This story has been republished, with permission, from Bear’s blog “Concerned Citizens” at www.concernedinsa.com.

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Randy Bear is a 20-plus years San Antonio resident, transplanted from Little Rock to join the ranks of USAA in Information Technology. Over the last two decades, he’s been involved in a variety of civic...