As the owner of New York Grilled Cheese Co. in Wilton Manors, Leor Barak is used to praise about his food. Now, he’s getting praise for his defense of one of his transgender employees.
Barak’s July 26 Facebook post, in which he defended Mia Patryck and the reason for his gender neutral bathrooms, has gotten the attention and praise of media outlets across the country, including The Huffington Post.
Barak’s post was in response to a customer on Facebook who said she liked the food but would not return because the restaurant only had gender-neutral bathrooms.
“We have recently been plagued with ongoing attacks directed towards our transgendered employees, and now our gender neutral bathrooms seem to be an issue as well. I will make it super clear to everyone. Our company culture at New York Grilled Cheese Co. is, and will always be one of acceptance, equality, and support of our transgendered community, and any other walk of life!” wrote Barak. He told the customer that he hopes she will change her mind on her view of transgender individuals.
Although marked as available for any gender, the restaurant’s two bathrooms are both single-use. Barak said he doesn’t understand why some people are making a big deal out of it because only one person at a time can use each bathroom. The stated problem many people have with bathrooms being used by transgender individuals, that assaults might occur, can’t happen because only one person can use them at a time. Barak said the single-use bathrooms also benefit fathers who need to take their daughter into a restroom or mothers who need to take their son.
But the online comments weren’t the beginning. Previously, Patricyk had a bad experience with a different customer in the restaurant.
“She called me all types of words – ‘he-she,’ ‘sir.’ People started leaving because they got uncomfortable. People have just been attacking our culture of acceptance.”
But the attitudes of her co-workers and supporters online have made her feel better about what happened. “We do not tolerate that here and we have a loving and accepting workplace. My co-workers are amazing they’re one hundred percent supportive and they always have my back.”
Barak said he was disappointed that customers at the time failed to come to her defense. But he was heartened by the response on Facebook, which he said has been overwhelmingly in support of Patricyk. “She’s one of our best servers. People just love her. They come for her.”
But despite the overwhelming level of support online, Barak said he’s knows he’s risking the loss of at least some businesses. “It’s obviously a dangerous situation for our business but we’re going to keep pushing back. I’d rather maintain my employee’s dignity and not take your money.”
On Facebook, Patricyk thanked Barak and her other supporters.
“He is not only standing up for me, but he is standing up for an entire community. I also want to personally thank each and every one of you that have come to my aid with your words of kindness and encouragement. Finally, I would like to address all the people that have not been supportive. Although you may not approve of my gender-identity the hurtful things you say to others like me can cause serious emotion damage. I am lucky enough to have a great group of people around me that help support through difficult times. Unfortunately, others in my situation do not. Your words can play a crucial role in someone’s existence. At the end of the day we are all HUMANS! And when I was young I was raised to love everyone for who they are regardless of their difference. Hopefully one day people can put their prejudices aside so that we can all live as one.”