DEBARY — Angie Ugarte honestly had no idea a note she posted to the door of her small business last week, the DeBary Diner, would attract international attention and draw customers from all over Florida.
The note, citing President Joe Biden’s handling of the end of the war in Afghanistan and the deaths of 13 service members last week in a suicide bombing, suggested his supporters should go eat elsewhere.
The note reads:
“If you voted for and continue to support and stand behind the worthless, inept and corrupt administration currently inhabiting the White House that is complicit in the death of our servicemen and women in Afghanistan, please take your business elsewhere. God bless America and God bless our soldiers.”
Fox 35, an Orlando television news station, picked up the story and soon the DeBary Diner was showing up in Google News searches, with Newsmax, the Daily Mail and New York Post among organizations posting about it.
That brought a crush of diners on Wednesday and the business ran short of food.
“I’ve gotten so many people calling me from all over the world, from Europe, trying to purchase meals for veterans, which I still haven’t been able to organize,” Ugarte said. “I think that the veterans will be fed for the rest of the year at the rate I’m getting donations.”
A woman of Thursday walked up and learned the business was closed, in part because it was so busy the day before.
“Hallelujah!” she proclaimed.
Ugarte, standing outside her strip-mall diner before noon on Thursday, was surrounded by a gathering of people thanking her for making her stand, even though the customers would have to go elsewhere to get their B.L.T.s or Cuban sandwiches.
Instead of cooks and waitstaff, a cleaning crew was laboring inside.
And outside, people kept showing up, wanting to show Ugarte support.
One woman, who declined to give her name, posed in front of the diner door holding a Trump 2020 banner. Other supporters said they came from Hunter’s Creek near Kissimmee, Monticello just east of Tallahassee, and Daytona Beach.
Rod Phillips, a Samsula resident who handed out business cards identifying him as a member of the Vietnam Veterans of America Florida State Council, took Ugarte’s hand.
“We wanted to come over here and thank you personally,” Phillips told Ugarte.
Afterward, Phillips explained why he felt it was important to support her.
“I respect the presidency of the United States, but this could have been handled much better, much better,” he said. “Being a Vietnam veteran and combat-wounded, I don’t wish war on anybody. But there is a proper time and place to get out of there.
“One American is too many to be left behind enemy lines.”
Ugarte, who bought the business nearly six years ago, said it’s the slow season for her “normal, little diner.”
Ugarte, who said she has a son-in-law who served in Iraq, was appalled at the Biden administration’s handling of the Afghanistan exit, including the Americans and high-tech equipment left behind.
“This isn’t about being Democrat or being Republican,” she said. “If you honestly voted for Biden and still think that he didn’t mess this up completely … I have a conscience and I don’t want your business. I don’t want to make my living off of people who have blood on their hands.”
In putting the note up, Ugarte said she figured she’d get a bit of reaction on some of the DeBary community Facebook pages.
“Never in a million years did I expect (the response),” she said. “I just know I’m one pissed off American and I know there’s a lot more of us out there.”
She said she would have left the note there if the same actions had occurred under former President Donald Trump.
“But he wouldn’t have done that, I don’t think, because he always shown he cares about the troops,” she said. “I appreciate that.”
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office had not received any complaints either from the diner or about it except for one. A caller from Indiana told the operator she saw a story about it online and thinks it’s wrong.
Restaurants have the right to discriminate against people with opposing viewpoints, said Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, professor of law at Stetson University.
“Freedom of political affiliation is a First Amendment right that protects Americans from the government interference with their political choices. If a person wants to join the Republican, Democratic or Green parties, the federal government or the state of Florida cannot stop that person from having that affiliation,” Torres-Speiscy said in an email to The News-Journal.
“Private businesses are not covered by the First Amendment in this way. Thus, private businesses can discriminate in ways that would be unconstitutional if the government did the same thing,” she said. “This is not to say that a business’s discriminating against customers on the basis of politics is wise or good for the bottom line.”
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