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Locatelli's responds to KPRC2 report: Here's why and how we covered the story

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(KPRC2)

HOUSTON – Locatelli’s restaurant is responding to a KPRC Channel 2 News report from June 14 in which a customer accused the Italian eatery of racially profiling her by arbitrarily enforcing a group tip policy prior to ordering.

The customer was asked to leave Locatelli’s after an argument with the restaurant’s manager. The restaurant denied that it was racially profiling the woman but did say it arbitrarily enforces a group tip policy.

The owner of Locatelli’s took issue with the story broadcast on KPRC and published on Click2Houston.com.

The restaurant posted security video Tuesday night with a statement on its version of the incident. Watch the video below.

SECURITY FOOTAGE RELEASE: By Request, Locatelli's Security Footage of 6.13.19

Locatelli's is a small, family-owned restaurant near Houston, Texas. For 16 years, Adam and Katie Womack have served its communities in Tomball, Cypress, and Magnolia. On June 13th, a local group who were known for bullying the staff and talking off items on their bill were seated at a table of 6. When the waitstaff alerted them at the beginning of their meal that the restaurant has a policy that 15% gratuity would be added to tables of 6 or more, the table refused. The party refused the policy and one woman, Brittany (shown in video) began verbally abusing the General Manager by calling her names, using profanity, hitting the table, and creating a scene in a crowded restaurant with young children nearby. Because of this, she and her party were asked to leave. The next day, Locatelli's was appraoched by KPRC Channel 2 and asked why they were kicking out patrons because of their skin color. Birttany had gone to the media, told them that Locatelli's kicked her out and were enforcing a tip because of her race, and that the General Manager threated to call the cops. The General Manager, Kerrie, ensured them that was aboslutely not true, and told them the actual events that took place. She explained the restaurant's policy to protect their waitstaff when serving groups of 6 or more. The news station chose to run the story anyway, at 5pm and at 6pm, heavily editing the manager's words. What followed were days of hate mail, threats, negative reviews, and horrible vile comments which continue to pour in today. In an attempt to uncover the truth of the situation, Locatelli's has been collecting witness statements and security footage of the events that really took place that day. This video is of the security footage at the Locatelli's Fry Road location, of Brittany and her party. You can see that the staff tried to handle the escalating situation with class, and that the General Manager was trying to protect other families, including the young children in the next table over, from profanity and curse words. While the lasting damage of the hate mail, negative comments that distroy Locatelli's online search results, and multiple threats continue to pour in to Locatelli's, the waitstaff, and their family, the ongoing support of Locatelli's customers from the past 16 years has been heartwarming. Thank you for your continued support and love. For everyone else, we hope you understand that we would never hate or discriminate based on anybody's race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. Locatelli's is a loving, family-oriented restaurant, and we love being a part of all of our communities. We hope that this video provides some peace to your hearts, and know that we are doing all that we can to treat our customers with love and respect. Thank you.

Posted by Locatelli's on Tuesday, June 18, 2019

You can read and watch KPRC’s report on the situation here

Because of the community interest around this story, we want to explain why we covered this story and how.

Here is a note from KRPC’s News Director David T. Strickland:

"It was obvious from the beginning this would be a controversial story. Unless there was an audio recording of the conversation, proving who said what would be impossible. That’s why it was imperative that reporter Vincent Crivelli accurately and fairly reflect both sides of this story.

"With a story like this, our goal is to find out what actually happened through interviewing the customer and the restaurant manager with the attempt to get at the real issue. In this case, the real issue was not race, but rather the restaurant’s group gratuity policy. We never take sides in stories like this. We represent the sides and let the public decide. Those different viewpoints are why we decided to do the story in the first place, that a customer believed she was being profiled. That was interesting but so was this idea around the tipping policy. There were many layers that made this story newsworthy.

"Vincent’s reporting did not focus on if the customer was removed from the restaurant because of her race. That was not the case and we ensured that we did not make this story about that. After talking with both the customer and management, it became clear that both agreed there was an issue with the restaurant’s group gratuity policy. That policy, like most restaurants, states that large parties of customers will receive a 15% gratuity added to their final bill. The customer was enraged because she was told the gratuity was being added prior to the group ordering. The restaurant stated the same group refused to tip during previous visits. Plus, the restaurant owner and manager admitted they arbitrarily enforce the tipping policy. That arbitrary policy fed the fuel for the profiling charge. From the point of view of the African American customer, she never had the opportunity to tip as she was profiled for the extra charge by the restaurant prior to ordering dinner.

"The tipping policy, confrontation and charges of profiling made this a newsworthy story. There have been thousands of comments on various social media sites proving high interest in what took place.

"The incident ended with the customer being asked to leave after a barrage of insults directed at the restaurant’s manager. To the restaurant’s credit, they did extend an olive branch and invited the group back at a later date.

"While I understand the emotions around this story, we want the public to understand why and how we approached this story."