NAACP planning protest at Shrimp Boat; business owners issue statement
The Milledgeville-Baldwin County chapter of the NAACP sent out a media release on Thursday afternoon, calling for "a boycott of local business Shrimp Boat amid allegations of discrimination and poor customer service."
The kerfuffle first began on Aug. 28, when local lady Shirley Ann Young posted about an experience that she'd had at the restaurant, located on South Elbert Street past Georgia Military College.
Reads the press release: "Community members are also invited to join the picket line on Saturday, October 15 from 11am until dusk on the sidewalk in front of Shrimp Boat. The group will meet up at Grateful Carwash on Underwood Road at 11am to get signs."
Also according to the press release, Young later had a sit-down with with the Shrimp Boat "manager" and local NAACP president Cynee Edwards, at which time "she received an apology" from the manager. After that, however, "further action discussed with the management has not taken place."
Added the press release: "The establishment has failed to commit to making necessary changes to improve the customer experience. The vast majority of the customer base is made of African American and Black customers who have noticed a pattern of unjust treatment that management has failed to address."
Also on Thursday, the Waller family, which owns the Shrimp Boat, released a statement.
"For over 50 years, the Shrimp Boat has been a staple of fast and friendly service on Milledgeville’s South Side. We are a family-owned business and believe in treating our staff, our customers and our community with the utmost respect," reads the statement.
The Waller family went on to explain the events that led up to the disagreement, writing that the restaurant was short-staffed that day and unable to take call-in orders at the time.
"On the afternoon of August 27 2022, a customer phoned the restaurant to place an order for pickup. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing effects of COVID 19, the general state of the economy, and other factors beyond our control, we were short-staffed at the time and our policy under these circumstances is to serve customers in the lobby and in the drive-through before taking call in orders," according to the release.
Young then drove to the restaurant "began to speak to our employees in a raised tone."
Added the release: "The customer’s order was taken and the customer sat in the lobby waiting for their meal. During this time the customer continued to speak negatively about our staff to other customers loudly enough that our staff could hear her comments. At that time, Ben Waller, owner and manager approached the guest, returned their money and asked them to leave. We understand that times are difficult for everyone, especially those who work in food service, and we ask that customers treat our staff with basic decency and respect. We would rather refuse service than to allow anyone to disrespect our staff. We appreciate the employees who show up day after day to serve our guests and we stand by our decision in this case."
The release added that the restaurant has a strict "non-discrimination policy in our hiring practices."
"Additionally, the Shrimp Boat family would like renew our commitment to support local clubs, programs and organizations through in-kind and financial contributions. We regularly support the following community groups and efforts: CSH Morale committee, GMC Softball, local churches, the local PD and Sheriff’s office, community concerts at the Oconee Greenway and many other community events over the years, whom have expressed need. The Management of the Shrimp Boat appreciates the continued support of the community and look forward to seeing you soon, wrote the Wallers in the release.