Maurice Bessinger won't fly the Confederate flag at his soon-to-open Rock Hill barbecue restaurant.
But don't think he's changing his views on the flag. Bessinger insists it's purely a business decision.
"It's too expensive," Bessinger said Wednesday, noting not all of his locations have outdoor flags on display. "It costs too much to install a flag and pole, keep up with it and replace it every time it tears. I have no plans to have a flag of any kind, Confederate, American or state flag, outside at this time."
Bessinger said Confederate memorabilia is sold or displayed inside his other stores, but he isn't sure how much merchadise will be carried in Rock Hill because the store is one of his smallest.
"I haven't decided all that," he said. "But I do reserve the right to do whatever I want, within the law."
Bessinger's well-known support for the flag stirred up controversy again this week when he confirmed plans to open a small barbecue restaurant in front of Wal-Mart off Dave Lyle Boulevard. Upon hearing the news, local civil rights leaders encouraged Rock Hill residents to boycott the new diner to protest Bessinger's political views.
A barbecue icon in South Carolina for decades, Bessinger came under heavy criticism in 2000 when he replaced the American flag with a Confederate flag at his Columbia headquarters. The move was in protest to lawmakers' decision to remove the Confederate banner from the Statehouse dome.
Since then, major grocery stores have dropped his line of mustard-based barbecue sauces, and Bessinger has been criticized for his stance on racial issues.
On Wednesday, Bessinger declined to comment on the suggested boycott.
TELL US WHAT YOU THINK
What do you think of Maurice Bessinger's decision not to fly the Confederate flag over the restaurant he will be opening soon in Rock Hill? Bessinger sells and displays Confederate memorabilia at his other restaurants but says it will be too expensive to fly a flag at the Rock Hill location. Sound off at community.heraldonline.com.