A dispute between the white owner of a Rock Hill restaurant and a black customer over comments the customer believes were racist has been resolved through mediation.
The rift between customer Tamisala McCrorey and Pete Demas, owner of Chix restaurant on Saluda Street, had spread on Facebook during the last two weeks. A protest had been scheduled for Saturday at the restaurant. Instead, a “unity rally” is planned for noon at the restaurant, 752 Saluda St.
McCrorey alleged that Demas told her on Dec. 1 that “you people make me sick” after she complained that her order had been improperly prepared. McCrorey said the “you people” remark was a reference to her race.
Demas disputes her version of the encounter and denies using racially inflammatory language, including “you people.”
McCrorey took her allegation public through Facebook. Afterward, Demas said, he lost about two-thirds of his business.
Melvin Poole, president of the Rock Hill NAACP, and others were asked to step in and mediate. On Wednesday, McCrorey, Demas, Poole and others met and agreed to a resolution. Demas apologized to McCrorey for “anything I have said, my actions and any insensitivities to you.”
As a result, the unity rally was scheduled to “show peace and resolution,” said Apostle Norma Gray of Rehoboth International Ministries in Rock Hill. She and another ministry member attended the Wednesday meeting.
“We are coming to help restore his business,” Gray said. “Our goal is to take him to a better place.”
Demas is offering a free drink or order of fries with each order Saturday.
The dispute between McCrorey, a business initiative and support program manager with Wells Fargo in Charlotte, and Demas started after she visited the restaurant to pick up a take-out order. The order included a hamburger that McCrorey said she specifically requested not include cheese.
When she returned home, she discovered the hamburger had cheese. Because the restaurant was about to close, McCrorey went back to Chix, she said.
McCrorey said the restaurant was locked when she arrived, but an employee opened the door and was trying to make things right when Demas approached her.
After explaining the problem, McCrorey alleges Demas said, “You people make me sick.”
Demas said he was in the back of the restaurant when he heard an after-hour, loud conversation and came forward to protect his daughter, who was working in the front of the restaurant.
McCrorey and Demas both called Rock Hill police. An officer responded but no report was filed, according to police spokesman Mark Bollinger. There have been no other calls to the restaurant, Bollinger said.
After the incident, McCorey posted on Facebook, “I know people will continue to patronize this place, but it makes me sick to my stomach knowing he is getting rich off of people he refers to as YOU people!”
Chix posted on its Facebook page, “Unfortunately, one persons bad experience has escalated into a simple misunderstanding of words and has been taken out of context.
“We would like to apologize for all those offended or upset.”
Demas said he has cut employee hours and made other adjustments to keep his business open. Demas, who operated “Pete’s Snack Shack” in downtown for many years, opened Chix this summer.
Poole, the Rock Hill NAACP president, said people come to him “all the time” with race-based complaints.
Typically, Poole contacts the businesses or people in question to get their side of the story and then tries to arrange a meeting between the two parties.
If a meeting can be arranged, the issue is usually resolved, Poole said.
What was different in this case, he said, was the attention focused on the issue through social media.
McCrorey said she now “has a clear mind” after Wednesday’s meeting. However, she said Thursday she has no intention of patronizing Chix again because of the incident.