Erika Klash, a San Francisco-based drag queen, says that she was denied service at an Austin, Texas Whataburger restaurant on Saturday because she was dressed in drag.
"I was just refused service at a Whataburger in Austin, Texas because I was in drag," Klash wrote on Twitter on Saturday. "Manager didn’t want me to enter and security blocked me from entering without citing any company policy. I am a professional artist, NOT A security threat."
(1 of 2) I was just refused service at a @Whataburger in Austin, Texas because I was in drag. Manager didn’t want me to enter and security blocked me from entering without citing any company policy. I am a professional artist, NOT A security threat.— Erika Klash (@ErikaKlash) November 17, 2019
Klash was visiting Austin, Texas to attend the International Drag Festival. Her character of choice was Monokuma, a character from the video game series Danganronpa. Klash, who identifies as gender non-conforming and uses both she and they pronouns while in drag, was shocked that such a situation happened and worried about her safety.
"I REALLY want to believe that this was all a misunderstanding," Klash wrote on Facebook. "When one is in full drag, and there are strangers staring at you while you're being physically blocked from entering an establishment, AND the person blocking your entry does not give a clear reason for doing so, its hard for one not to wonder WHY all of that is happening. As a queer person, It's also hard to feel safe in those moments."
According to Klash, she received food at a different Whataburger location by using the drive-thru.
"I could not make any clear determination on the motivation behind them denying me entry. This also means that I could not rule out discrimination as a potential motivation," Klash wrote.
Whataburger has not responded to Yahoo's request for comment. The fast-food chain replied to Klash on Twitter: "We apologize you had a bad experience at Whataburger. We love all of our customers & we are investigating the circumstances surrounding this unfortunate incident."
According to a statement, provided to Yahoo Lifestyle and shared on Facebook on Thursday, Klash is “generally satisfied” with Whataburger's investigation.
"Whataburger reviewed a range of evidence including recorded statements of those involved as well as camera footage, and have not found clear evidence that the staff were acting with outright discriminatory intent when they denied me access to the restaurant," Klash wrote. "They did, however, find that there was clear mishandling of the situation by Whataburger staff."
According to Klash, when she and her party went to the drive-thru at the second Whataburger, the manager informed her that the chain had a policy requiring people to remove masks, so they could be identified by security cameras and staff.
Klash was not wearing a mask, only makeup.
"The investigation has found that Whataburger staff INCORRECTLY and IRRESPONSIBLY applied this company policy (which should be unrelated) to my situation, without quoting said company policy to me at the time of the incident," Klash wrote in her statement.
Klash goes on to state that as she was not wearing a mask, and had nothing on her person, including no purse, gloves or props.
“The last thing I expected to be labeled was a security risk and there is really no reason why I should have been looked on as such," Klash said.
Following the incident, according to Klash, Whataburger "has decided to adjust the placement of certain staff members."
Klash also added that “Whataburger will be rolling out a series of trainings designed to help their staff better assess security risk." The training will occur at locations within Austin, and then will be rolled out to other cities, she wrote.
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