HARKER HEIGHTS — One restaurant’s decision to bar a combat veterans group from eating there stirred up some controversy online last weekend.
Antonio Estrada is a member of the Central Texas division of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association. He and about 15 other members went into Richard Rawlings’ Garage for lunch, and were turned away because of the motorcycle vests they were wearing, according to Estrada’s Facebook post. Though management offered to allow them to dine if they took off their vests, the group declined, and took to the internet to voice its concerns.
“We were told that we could not eat there in less (sic) we took off our vest,” Estrada said in the post. “So that being said, I will no longer do any kind of business with anything owned by Richard Rawling.”
As of noon on Tuesday, Estrada’s post, which was accompanied by a picture of five members posing in front of the restaurant, had been shared 1,400 times. It had 939 reactions and 481 comments.
Joe Lipp, a local member of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association who also tried to eat at the restaurant, said the Richard Rawlings’ management was polite and professional when they asked the group to leave.
He was, however, stunned, because he personally had eaten inside the restaurant with his vest on before, though with far fewer members. He said that the group hasn’t had a lot of problems with local establishments that don’t allow motorcycle clubs inside, partially because most members have a running list of restaurants and bars that don’t welcome motorcycle clubs.
“We’re not going to ride and not have our vests on,” Lipp said.
A representative from Richard Rawlings’ Garage declined to comment on that matter. A phone call to the corporate office was not returned.
The restaurant did, however, offer an explanation to TV station KCEN.
“We have a dress code posted at the restaurant that requires that groups do not wear their MC colors in the restaurant,” a spokesperson said. “This is simply a safety and security decision.”
Richard Rawlings’ Garage opened last summer in the same building that housed Twin Peaks, a chain restaurant that received national headlines on May 17, 2015, when a shooting at the Twin Peaks in Waco left nine people dead and 20 wounded. Police said it was rival biker gangs who were involved in that shootout.
The Twin Peaks in Harker Heights, which closed about four months after the shooting, was owned by Dallas-based company, the Chalak Mitra Group, which also owned the Waco location.