Home ENTERTAINMENT El Compadre fires manager who scolded gay actor for kiss

El Compadre fires manager who scolded gay actor for kiss

by LATimes
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Drew Droege, an L.A.-based actor and comedian, dined at the Mexican restaurant El Compadre in Echo Park on Monday evening.

“Last night, I went on a really nice date. With a really sad, disgusting, hateful moment in the middle,” he wrote to his 24,000 followers on Instagram the next morning.

By the end of his date, he alleges, a restaurant employee scolded them both for a public display of affection — not because it wasn’t allowed but because they are gay.

“Last night at @ELCOMPADRE_DTLA Echo Park I was reprimanded by a mgr [manager] for kissing another man,” Droege added in a Twitter post Tuesday. “At 6:30pm in the middle of our second drink. Told ‘this is a family restaurant’& ‘we don’t allow that behavior here’. I will never be back. I encourage you all to find another place too.”

His posts have garnered hundreds of comments and thousands of “likes” across social platforms, with some calling for a boycott of El Compadre and others flooding the restaurant’s Yelp pages with one-star reviews this week.

After releasing an initial statement Tuesday that it eventually deleted, El Compadre issued a second statement late Wednesday afternoon saying it had fired the employee in question.

“We want to sincerely apologize for the actions of our manager the night of December 12th,” the restaurant’s latest Instagram post read. “This is not representative of our core values at El Compadre, and we wanted to let our customers know that the manager has been terminated.

“We have been in business for almost 50 years, and we accept, appreciate and value every customer that walks through our doors, and this behavior will never be tolerated in our establishment,” the statement continued. “We deeply regret how our manager handled this situation.”

Droege and his date arrived at El Compadre in Echo Park — the family-owned restaurant also operates locations in Hollywood and downtown L.A. — at 5:30 p.m. Monday, then proceeded to enjoy what Droege said was a lovely dinner with excellent service. According to the actor, after they had closed their tab and were finishing their second round of drinks, they put their arms around each other and kissed a few times.

That’s when an employee whom Droege described as an older man in the restaurant’s uniform approached their table.

“He basically said, ‘You guys can’t do that here.’ And we were so confused, so I was just saying, ‘What?’” Droege told The Times in an interview Wednesday morning. “[The employee] said, ‘This is a family restaurant,’ and I said, ‘Are people complaining about what we’re doing?’ And he waved his hands in front of our faces and said, ‘It doesn’t matter if you’re the president of the United States. You guys can’t do that here. We don’t accept that behavior here.’”

Droege said he and his date were taken aback and put down their drinks and left the restaurant without further engaging.

“It was just so shocking to us that in Los Angeles, in 2022, that this would happen — but sadly it did,” he said. This was Droege’s first visit to the local chain’s Echo Park location — and the first time he had encountered homophobia from a restaurant employee.

“I’ve never had anything like this happen to me in Los Angeles,” he said. “I’ve had homophobic slurs thrown at me in different spaces — outside of gay bars and all of that stuff — but never in a place of business.”

The actor and comedian — a fixture in L.A.’s comedy scene with a long list of credits on TV (“Search Party,” “The Goldbergs”) and film (“The Extinction of Fireflies”) — noted that there were other, straight couples also hugging and kissing. But none of them were approached as Droege and his date were.

“We weren’t getting frisky or anything,” he said, adding that the employee didn’t outright say that other guests had complained, which led Droege and his date to believe the employee was personally offended.

Reached by phone, a representative for El Compadre initially declined to provide comment, but a separate rep emailed the restaurant’s second statement that it posted on social media Wednesday.

On Tuesday afternoon El Compadre’s official Instagram account posted its first statement, which was removed by Wednesday morning. The Instagram account has since disabled comments on its posts.

“We have read all of your comments and concerns and we are looking into what happened Monday night at our Echo Park location,” the post originally read. “While we work to learn more, we want to make it clear we stand with the LGBTQ community and hold no space for intolerance, hate or unjust treatment of our beloved guests regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, or status.”

El Compadre has three locations around Los Angeles, including a restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, pictured.

(Lucas Kwan Peterson / Los Angeles Times)

Droege said that the now-deleted statement did not feel like an apology, nor have representatives for El Compadre contacted him or his date, which Droege would welcome. He finds the lack of communication, not to mention the deletion of the first statement, to be damning.

“If I posted that I had a bad burrito, they would, I’m sure, write me a message and say, ‘Dinner’s on us next time,’ no questions asked,” Droege told The Times. “But when it’s this, the fact that they’ve been silent — and I understand legal stuff and whatever they have to deal with — they’re speaking volumes. I have nothing to gain from this; my date doesn’t even want to come out publicly, because we’re not a couple. We’ve just gone on a couple of dates, we’re sort of figuring that out. I could lose that.”

Beyond an apology from El Compadre, Droege is hoping that the local chain will better train its employees to ensure guests do not feel discriminated against.

Now that his posts have gone viral, he has been overwhelmed by the swell of support he has received online.

Amid the comments from high-profile supporters are vows to stop frequenting the old-school restaurant and bar, which opened its first location in 1975 in Hollywood and is well known for its “flaming margarita.”

“I’m so sorry Drew,” wrote actor and Broadway performer Nick Adams in the comment section of Droege’s Instagram post. “Will never step foot in there again.”

“MadTV” star Mo Collins said she was “furious” about the incident, promising she’d “no longer go there.” “That’s crossing a huge line,” she said. “I don’t care how good their margaritas are.”

Mary Elizabeth Ellis of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” made a similar vow and said she’d call the restaurant to complain.

Chloe Fineman, a cast member on “Saturday Night Live,” called the establishment “assholes” and said she was “so so so sorry.”

Golden Globe-winning actor Matt Bomer and Kate Micucci, one half of the musical comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates, also had Droege’s back.

Drew Droege starred as Rose Nylund in "Golden Girlz Live" at Cavern Club Theater

Drew Droege starred as Rose Nylund in “Golden Girlz Live” at the Cavern Club Theater earlier this year.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Others have defended El Compadre and shared their own, more positive experiences as members of the LGBTQ community. Droege said he believes and supports those commenters too. All he hoped to do was share his own experience this week.

“This made us feel less-than and made us feel really judged,” Droege said. “All the fears that we have as gay people out in public — I mean, there’s a lot of really, truly horrifying things that continue to happen to us in this country, in this world every day, and this was so minor compared to anything like that. It was just a reminder of, ‘Oh, you might think you’re safe in Los Angeles, but you’re not.’”

Many online, including Droege, have redirected would-be patrons to Casita del Campo in Silver Lake as a more LGBTQ-friendly alternative for classic Mexican food. Droege himself has performed in drag at that restaurant’s basement venue, the Cavern Club Theater, including in recent productions such as “Golden Girlz Live.”

For the past two decades, Droege has been performing stand-up and sketch comedy around Los Angeles and regularly contributes to improvisational comedy groups such as the Groundlings and Upright Citizens Brigade. In 2010, he won an Outfest award for emerging talent.

Since then, Droege has acted in supporting roles in a long list of TV shows, including “How I Met Your Mother,” “New Girl,” “Key and Peele” and “The Goldbergs,” and he was a voice actor for three characters on “Bob’s Burgers.” In the HBO Max dark comedy “Search Party,” Droege played Ashley, a charming, high-priced wedding planner.

Perhaps his most memorable performance came online in a web series of Chloë Sevigny impressions, part of a send-up of the quintessential indie actor that he created in the early 2000s.

True to his comedic roots, Droege got the last laugh in his social media posts about his experience at El Compadre.

“Also after this happened to us,” he wrote, “we went outside and made out in their parking lot.”

This story originally appeared on LATimes

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