Waitress opens up after Sonoma's Girl & the Fig restaurant owner defends BLM mask policy

A BLM rally is now scheduled for Valentine's Day outside of the restaurant and the owner says they have received threats of violence and are currently closed.
SONOMA, Calif. (KGO) -- The owner of popular Sonoma County restaurant Girl & the Fig, who's caught in a Black Lives Matter controversy, held a press conference Thursday to defend his policy and announce changes.

The former server who left after she was not allowed to wear a BLM mask also spoke.

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"I am hearing from a lot of supporters and critics," said Kimi Stout.

The 34-year-old quit her job at the restaurant last September after being told she could no longer work while wearing a Black Lives Matter mask.

An Instagram video shot as she left has turned her into a spokesperson for the cause. It shows Kim tossing her uniform into a trash can and then making an obscene gesture.

"Businesses are learning it is no longer profitable to align yourself with racists," said Stout.

The restaurant's owner does not see himself or his business as racist.

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On Thursday, John Toulze said he supports Black Lives Matter but insists there is more to the story. He describes it as a dress code issue. When Toulze ordered new masks for the staff, he did not include any that referenced the BLM movement.

"Her support of Black Lives matter was not the issue. We believe in a uniform policy. It is very consistent with people in our profession to be presented in a certain way," said Toulze

Toulze was upset at reports that he fired Stout.

"I did not fire her," he said.

"No, I was not fired," agreed Stout. "But I had no choice based on principle. They are a business. It was nothing illegal. But in my opinion, it was not morally right."

The backlash has been costly. Toulze described how threats to the building, the staff, and even their children, have forced him to close the restaurant indefinitely, and just after it finally reopened.

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"The anger is there. And it gets directed in ways I do not understand," said Toulze.

What happened is clear to Stout.

"I think they valued a uniform policy over showing support for marginalized lives," she said.

ABC7 News asked Stout if she bears any responsibility for her former associates now working.

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"I am not the president of The Girl & the Fig. He made that decision," said Stout.

Stout says this not political, it's a social movement for racial equality.

"As a Brown queer fem person, standing up for the marginalized has always been important to me. I know how it feels to walk around in downtown Sonoma when you have darker skin than others and getting those sideways stares," says Stout.

A BLM rally is now scheduled for Valentine's Day outside of the restaurant and the owner says they have received threats of violence and are currently closed.

At this point, it's unclear how big Sunday's 11 a.m. protest will be, but some tell us they are hopeful that it doesn't interfere with special Valentine's day lunches planned in the square and at restaurants that have previously been closed due to the pandemic.
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