Cincinnati BBQ restaurant free lunch offer to black community sparks controversy

Cincinnati BBQ restaurant free lunch offer to black community sparks controversy
A line forms outside Eli's barbecue in Cincinnati after the restaurant offers a free meal to members of the black community. (Source: WXIX)

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - A Cincinnati barbecue restaurant finds itself in the midst of an uproar after offering a free lunch to members of the black community.

Elias Leisring, the co-owner of Eli’s BBQ, made the announcement on the restaurant’s Facebook page Tuesday and it sparked an eruption of emotions in the comments.

“We were just trying to think how we could help in a realistic way, we would do the same if there was a tornado, we’re helping out the community we’re in,” Leisring said.

Leisring says that the response has been overwhelmingly positive however there is some negativity. He says people are, “rushing to judgment to condemn us for a kind act.”

“Wow! What a racist thing to do. Your virtue signaling is through the roof!! What’s hilarious about this is that by discriminating against white people, they will choose to eat somewhere else. after your feed the black day is over, your white customers won’t come back. Hurting your own business just to look woke," said Shae Lutz, one of the more than 1,400 commenters on the Facebook post.

Eli’s BBQ is not denying anyone a free lunch. “It doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, purple, Asian, a cop, anyone is welcome,” Leisring said. He says he believes that people are misunderstanding what he sees as a positive gesture to help out the community.

“What an absolutely wonderful gesture. I am so proud to have such an incredible establishment in our city. Thank you, Eli’s, for stepping up. I’ve always loved your food. I’m going to love a lot more of it in the future. In fact, I believe we’ll be having Eli’s bbq for supper one night this week," said Dale Cullen said in a comment on the Facebook post.

Leisring says this is not exclusively about George Floyd and the protests. He says he believes that the African American community has been affected more by COVID-19 and this promotion was to show support for a local community in need, not to exclude anyone.

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