This weekend Governor Greg Abbott will be the keynote speaker at the Texas Restaurant Associations (TRA) Lone Star Bash in Dallas and restaurateurs are not happy.
Abbott’s stellar role receives backlash from the TRA community due to the Republican values championed by the governor.
Victoria Elizondo, owner of Cochinita in Houston, had planned to feed 450 people at the event and immediately backed out once she found out who the guest star was.
She told the Chron that as a woman, an immigrant, a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and someone who supports abortion rights, she decided she couldn’t. not participate.
“Republicans just don’t support immigrants and Dreamers,” she said, upset that the TRA was aligning itself with Abbott. “It’s a huge slap in the face for us because the restaurant industry is run by us,” she said.
The TRA defines itself as a non-partisan organization, however, it has donated thousands of dollars to Republicans in Texas. According to Transparency USA, TRA’s Political Action Committee donated $52,500 to Governor Abbott, $25,000 to Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, $10,000 to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and $17,500 to the President of the Texas House Dade Phelan during the 2018, 2020 and 2022 election cycles.
Speaking on behalf of the TRA, CEO Williams Knight said their speakers, including Abbott, were key to the passage of priority TRA bills that allowed “restaurants to sell alcohol to take away , save millions of dollars in franchise and unemployment insurance taxes, and gain groundbreaking transparency protections in the third-party delivery marketplace.
But TRA members are not satisfied. Andrea Arana, the owner of the soon-to-open Las Perras cafe, told The Chron that as a restaurant manager in Texas, she constantly saw owners discriminate against undocumented, black, and LGBTQ employees.
“[The TRA is] actively giving money to politicians who would vote to see these groups erased from the face of the earth,” she said.
During the pandemic, the TRA has helped keep many businesses afloat through relief funds and other initiatives. For Alex Negranza, a seasoned restaurant and bar professional, it was a surprise to see the announcement that Abbott was the restaurant’s keynote speaker.
“Their keynote speaker does not represent restaurant values, he is anti-immigration, anti-reproductive rights and anti-LGBT. Everything Abbott stands for is so contrary to restaurant beauty and culture,” he said.