Something Fishy at Reef Restaurant in Houston

Update 5/14/13: I don’t have all of the details yet, and want to double-check before I spread news that isn’t mine to spread, but it sounds like the Reef and Planned Parenthood folks have come together to bridge the gap, and we may have a solution that leaves everyone with a much better taste in their mouths. Like the taste of a shrimp shooter or a Club No Minor milkshake shot.

Original: The story has gone public: Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast had two venues back out of agreements at the last minute for events scheduled to take place on Tuesday, May 7, 2013.

One was a bar, Proof, that was to host a cocktail reception for the Young Leaders group from 6 to 8 p.m. Late in the afternoon on Monday, May 6th, around 4 p.m., word went out that Proof had backed out. By 5 p.m. that same night, another club stepped up to host the event, and the change in venue was announced on the event’s Facebook page and in emails to attendees.

The other venue to cancel on Planned Parenthood was a restaurant, Reef, that was to host a smaller event for approximately 20 people from 5 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 7th.

According to Bill Floyd of Reef, he cancelled the at approximately 2:30 p.m. on the day, Tuesday, the event was supposed to take place.

Floyd’s account is fishy. (Sorry, it had to be said.)

Proof’s management originally said that Bill Floyd at Reef, the restaurant that shares a building with them, strongly suggested that it would be in Proof’s best interest not to host the event, and that there would be consequences if the event, and the protesters affiliated with it, somehow interfered with his business or created negative publicity.

Has Floyd never encountered the Streisand effect?

Subsequently, Proof’s only public comment has been to say their decision was a matter of logistics.

Floyd has been trumpeting logistics as the reason for the cancellation as well, saying that an event the size of the larger happy hour taking place while his restaurant was at full capacity would overwhelm available parking spaces.

Keep in mind, however, that Floyd asserted he cancelled on Tuesday in his statement to Alison Cook of the Houston Chronicle. That’s a day after the larger event, the one  creating a parking problem, had already been moved to another location. 

With the event no longer taking place, why should Reef cancel? After all, with no event at the bar upstairs, Reef should have had all the parking capacity necessary to accommodate a full house.

Floyd can sputter all he wants about logistics and parking. The cancellation only happened because the party that had reserved the space was Planned Parenthood.

One of the comments Floyd made is particularly notable:

“We have absolutely no axe to grind,” Floyd says heatedly. “Bryan [Caswell, his partner] and I do not pick sides or discriminate. We host events here for Democrats and Republicans, atheists and agnostics.” He adds that he and Caswell have been big supporters of Legacy Houston, an HIV activist group, and that it’s “absurd” to depict them as “anti-Planned Parenthood. That is so far from the truth.”

This is the classic Good Guy™ defense. Hey, I do something for this one group I perceive as marginalized, so give me a pass on discriminating against this other group I perceive as marginalized.

What particularly amuses me about Floyd asking for a pass on dissing PP because of his  support for Legacy, an outstanding federally qualified health center, is that the Legacy CEO is a relentless advocate for Planned Parenthood. Time and again, when she could very easily stand aside and stay out of the spotlight, she’s chosen to stand up and speak out on behalf of Planned Parenthood.

What’s the lesson another business should learn from this debacle?

The presence of protesters and police never deters people from entering Planned Parenthood’s clinics, and never deters them from taking part in regular events at venues across town.

The perception of discrimination against Planned Parenthood, however, frequently deters people from supporting a business. If Bill Floyd is unclear about this, I have three words for him to reflect upon:

Susan G. Komen. 

I won’t be going to Reef, and I’ll be avoiding Floyd’s other restaurants, El Real and Little Big’s, as well. I know plenty of other Planned Parenthood supporters who will be avoiding them as well. These are individuals who not only dine out on their own time, but who regularly schedule large, expense account-funded dinners for law firms, energy companies, banks, and other businesses they own or manage.

So far, most of the agitation over this has taken place offline, in phone calls:

Bill Floyd spent five hours on the phone on Wednesday trying to explain himself to ticked-off board members and supporters of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, the Houston arm of the national women’s health organization. At one point things grew so fraught that Floyd, who co-owns the high profile Reef seafood restaurant with chef Bryan Caswell, asked former Governor Mark White, one of his valued regulars, to make some phone calls to help manage the situation.

Floyd’s partner, who tweets as @Wholefish, apparently has heard of the Streisand effect. His Twitter feed has only on message about this incident:

Sadly, the misinformation that is mortifying him seems to be coming from his partner.

I have a suggestion for a way Reef and Proof might be able to make amends for their unprofessional treatment of a well-respected nonprofit that has been providing care in Houston for over 75 years. The Planned Parenthood Young Leaders summer fundraiser is just around the bend. They’ll need donated food, both for the underwriter party before the event, and the night of the event itself. They’ll also need the hook-up to a liquor distributor or two who can donate liquor, wine, and beer for the cause. Perhaps Bryan, Bill, and the event chairs can negotiate a donation, and connection, and some détente?

Other coverage of the story:

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6 Responses to Something Fishy at Reef Restaurant in Houston

  1. The only question I still have though, is if it was a problem with PP why did he book them in the first place?

    • Floyd can’t seem to get his story right. If the problem was parking b/c of the event upstairs, that event was no longer a problem. If the problem was they couldn’t accommodate a reservation they’d already made, why did they take it, no matter who it was? Are they really so completely booked from 5 to 6 on a Tuesday that they’d have to start nixing reservations? And did they really not know it was Planned Parenthood making the reservation? Because any nonprofit I’ve ever worked for, when making a reservation in advance, explicitly identifies itself as a nonprofit AND provides a state sales tax exemption form which identifies the nonprofit by name so that they won’t pay sales tax on the check.

    • I guess I should add that in a couple of the articles, Floyd claims he didn’t know the reservation was for Planned Parenthood. I think it is possible that someone else at the restaurant made the reservation & he only found out about it being PP Monday or Tuesday. If he didn’t know it was supposed to be PP, would he have picked any other random larger reservations to cancel? Does he normally cancel reservations when it gets crowded? It just doesn’t make sense. He should probably stop giving interviews.

  2. Pingback: Eye on Williamson » TPA Blog Round Up (May 13, 2013)

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