Local Drag Queen Calls Out Urban Cookhouse for Homophobic Actions
Tuscaloosa's Urban Cookhouse restaurant is under fire on social media after three employees in its kitchen allegedly made homophobic remarks.
Leland Hughes, who may be better known around town as the popular drag queen "Genesis," shared his experience Monday in a now-viral Facebook post, which has received nearly 200 shares.
In the post, Hughes recounts several separate incidents that took place at the restaurant involving kitchen staff workers. According to Hughes, three male employees were seen noticeably "mocking" him while he was trying to enjoy a meal at the restaurant. Hughes said this incident has happened multiple times within the past 18 months.
"I let it go the first time and the first several times but, there was something about yesterday that really took me there," Hughes said.
Hughes said he was a fan of Urban Cookhouse and would often visit the Tuscaloosa restaurant several times a week. However, the recent actions of the three employees have been disappointing and ultimately deterred Hughes from ever visiting the restaurant again.
"Unfortunately, I have dealt with things like that before. I'm sure it will not be my last time," Hughes said. "One day, maybe not in my lifetime, but one day, it will be nice to know that [homophobia] doesn't happen anymore, but until it does, I guess, I'll just be the voice of reason."
Hughes' Facebook post has gained large support from the LGBTQ community. Many people have shared their support for Hughes on social media while also demanding answers from the Tuscaloosa restaurant's owners.
Ryan Taylor – who is famously known as Trinity "The Tuck" Taylor, the season four winner of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars – took to Hughes' defense this week to condemn Urban Cookhouse for not taking more action to make the situation right. The Springville, Alabama native shared the post on their social media sites, which brought even more attention to Hughes' story.
Hughes said he was surprised at the amount of attention his original post received because it wasn't intentional for his story to go viral.
"I didn't ask for anyone to not go [to Urban Cookhouse], or share the post. I just shared what happened and it now has a life of its own," Hughes said.
Hughes also said he is not looking for publicity for sharing his story, he simply wants the restaurant to apologize and take accountability.
"I don't want a saga to continue, I just want them to do right. I don't want anything free – just common decency," Hughes said. "I would just like for them to do better in the future. I mean, you know, better customer service, better training for their employees and better responsiveness from them."
And, those wishes may soon be granted. Andrea Snyder, one of Urban Cookhouse's co-owners, told The Tuscaloosa Thread that the company is implementing more training to combat issues like homophobia in the workplace.
"As a result of Leland’s personal experience, we have decided to engage in sensitivity training for all members of our team to learn if and how we can be better moving forward," she said. "We will also be implementing an anti-sexual harassment and discrimination training and a safe reporting system for our employees to ensure a culture of acceptance internally."
While Snyder said she "sincerely regrets" that Hughes faced discrimination in one of her stores, she affirmed that the training Urban Cookhouse plans to offer its staff is the "correct course of action" to bettering the situation.
The three employees who made the offensive acts are currently still employed at the Tuscaloosa restaurant and an internal investigation or disciplinary actions are not going to take place.
"We sincerely regret to learn that Leland felt uncomfortable visiting one of our locations. It is important to us that all our patrons feel safe and welcome, and discriminatory behavior of any kind is not tolerated as it runs counter to our family values and company standards," Snyder said. "We welcome continued dialog to learn from Leland’s experience and understand if and how we can be better moving forward."
Check out the viral Facebook post below.