Sarasota City Commissioner makes racially charged remarks about popular local restaurant

Sarasota County

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Sarasota city commissioner has called out a local restaurant and ignited a controversy.

The city leader made a racially charged remark about the popular Michael’s On East, located just off Tamiami Trail and Bahia Vista Street.

The restaurant is fighting back.

The restaurant owner was very offended but the city commissioner insists it was not an attack on this business.

‘Michael’s On East’ is a Sarasota institution. Tucked away in a strip mall, the fine dining restaurant has earned many prestigious national awards.

The owners are heavily involved in the community, and the restaurant often hosts charitable events.

But it recently caught the attention of Sarasota City Commissioner Willie Shaw.

During a meeting on Tuesday, he spoke out and shocked the crowd.

“Michael’s, the restaurant, did you know right now, Michael’s has not one black person working for it?” he said.

The restaurant was alarmed. The owners posted a heartfelt letter to the employees.

They wrote-

We’re deeply disappointed that the need exists to write this letter. 

You may have heard that last night during a televised Sarasota City Commission meeting, one City Commissioner chose to call out our Michael’s On East family to claim that “Michael’s on East has not one black person working there.” As we all know, and can see by looking around, that statement is patently false. 

We are proud that our Michael’s On East family is full of dedicated individuals whose ages, races and cultures vary widely.  A diverse workforce brings different perspectives – and unique flavors – to our team. Michael’s On East has been successful for more than 32 years because we hire incredible people who are qualified for their job, show up to work, and are committed to excellence in hospitality, regardless of race. 

This business wasn’t created around fulfilling diversity quotas, or categorizing our staff as statistics.  We think of you as our lifelong friends and family — much more than just a “number.” But if we were made to lean on data to back up the facts, out of about 175 team members, roughly 30% of you are non-white. 

Many in the community are outraged.

When reached by phone, Commissioner Shaw said he was using Michael’s to make a point.

“This is an overall picture of the community,” said Shaw.

Shaw wants to see businesses step up.

“I would hope that we could get together and form more conversations on what we’re dealing with in the way of diversity in the workforce,” Shaw said.

Commissioner Shaw is hopeful some good comes out of this controversy.

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