A group of four black women — including a member of one of New Orleans’ most famous musical families — who received a receipt containing a typed racial epithet on Thursday is seeking a personal apology from the waiter at the French Quarter restaurant who delivered the offensive message.
Morris Reed Jr., a lawyer for the group, called a news conference Friday to highlight the incident at Huck Finn’s Cafe and provide more details about it.
By then, a picture of the offensive receipt had gone viral on Facebook and other social media, and the restaurant’s management was scrambling to head off a public-relations nightmare.
The waiter who delivered the ticket with the word “N*****” on it — in all capital letters — was quickly fired, according to a prepared statement sent on behalf of the restaurant Friday afternoon by public relations consultant Morgan Stewart.
But Liryca Neville, daughter of legendary percussionist and singer Cyril Neville, told reporters that after she alerted management about the incident, she was told the waiter — whom she identified as Dakota Crochet — would be allowed to finish his shift. She said that Crochet’s father is part of Huck Finn’s management team.
The offending receipt identified the server as “Dakota C,” and Crochet’s Facebook page confirmed that he was a waiter at the cafe. He did not respond to a message from The New Orleans Advocate.
Stewart, without confirming the names of any of the involved parties, said the waiter was fired “immediately” once the cafe’s “general manager” was made aware of the incident. It was not clear what time that occurred. He said several managers report to the general manager.
Neville said that she and some of her colleagues work nearby and had ordered lunch at Huck Finn’s. She said she and her co-workers get a 25 percent discount because they often refer business to the cafe.
She described their experience at Huck Finn’s on Thursday as unremarkable, save for the fact that one meal was sent back to the kitchen.
The waiter, whom they did not know, showed “the regular frustration from having to take back an order he didn’t want to take back,” Neville said, but “everyone was very nice to him.”
Neville said she was shocked when the $48.29 bill arrived and noted the discount, along with the typed words: “N*****. 100% dislike.” She said she confronted the waiter, who said the ticket had been meant for another group but did not apologize.
When Neville spoke with the manager, he tried to “shush” her, she said, and explained that the waiter would finish out his shift but not return afterward. Neville said she left briefly, then returned and showed her receipt to some of the other black patrons sitting in the same part of the restaurant. She said one group left immediately, and a man at another table said he wanted to confront the waiter.
Neville’s mother posted a photo of the receipt to her Facebook page shortly afterward.
The Decatur Street eatery, which advertises “a casual atmosphere — no stuffiness allowed! — and a family feel,” reacted quickly, posting an apology to its Facebook page just before 7 p.m. Thursday.
With the offensive receipt creating a stir and the NAACP getting involved, the cafe sent out a more extensive statement Friday afternoon.
“Today, Huck Finn’s Cafe recognizes that the action taken by an employee Thursday afternoon has caused a great deal of outrage and heartache among many in our community and on social media,” the statement read. “We acknowledge that the anger and disappointment being expressed is legitimate and has serious merit. We want everyone to know that we agree. The employee’s behavior was offensive and completely unacceptable.
“Ownership stands by the decision of the restaurant’s general manager to immediately and unilaterally fire the employee for his deplorable behavior. ...
“Finally, we sincerely hope that the ignorant action of one employee is not considered a reflection of the entire staff at Huck Finn’s Cafe. His behavior and language simply do not fit our belief system. All of our customers should be treated with love, dignity and respect, and we will not tolerate anything less. We humbly apologize to our customers and our community for this deeply regrettable incident. We share your heartache and outrage and would welcome an opportunity to deliver a personal apology to the individuals involved in the incident.”
Neville said Friday she had been unable to sleep the previous night, adding that she had a “breakdown” while at work Friday. She said she considered the restaurant’s initial apology insincere and aimed at forestalling a lawsuit.
The second apology was better, in Reed’s view, but still not good enough. He said a lawsuit may be in the offing.
“We appreciate them taking this step, but it would be good to hear it out of their mouths,” he said. “Anyone can type a statement.”
WWL-TV contributed reporting.