Coffee Shop's Ban Of North Dakota Lawmakers Kinda Backfired


Amid the fury stemming from the North Dakota House’s defeat of an anti-discrimination bill, SB2279, the Red Raven Espresso Parlor posted a notice that they would be denying service to lawmakers voting no.

Despite that happening more than ten days ago there was a flurry of stories about it this weekend. “It did its job,” shop owner Joe Curry told the Associated Press suggesting that response to the ban had been “99.9 percent positive.”

I’m sure that percentage is probably right, because the notice kind of backfired. And the only person who seems to have realized it is Rep. Josh Boschee, a Fargo Democrat and the first openly gay member of the state Legislature.

State Rep. Josh Boschee, a Red Raven regular and the state’s only openly gay lawmaker, said he didn’t like the tactic.

“I understand what they are trying to make a point but I would have done it differently,” the Fargo Democrat said.

Why would Boschee oppose this? I think he probably understands that a coffee shop banning Republican lawmakers because of political convictions isn’t all that different from Christian business owners refusing service to homosexuals because of their convictions. In other words, the Red Raven shop was ironically exercising the very right to deny service based on strongly-held beliefs that the lawmakers they were banning voted to protect.

And the very lawmakers targeted supported the ban. “They have the perfect right to refuse anyone they want,” Rep. Jim Kasper (R-Fargo) told the AP.

“Does it matter why they deny me service? Whatever their intentions or reasons behind the denial, it does not change the simple fact that they do not wish to do business with me,” Rep. Chris Olson (R-West Fargo) wrote here on SAB. “It would be an injustice for me to leverage the organized force of the state to compel the Red Raven to serve me in the name of my individual liberty. In like manner passage of SB2279 would have been an improper use of legislative power over the rights of the individual.”

So, basically, the Red Raven’s political statement backfired. Most people – up to and including the lawmakers being banned – had no decision with the impromptu service policy because they recognize the right of business owners to make those sort of decisions based on their convictions.

That the supporters of SB2279, those the Red Raven wasn’t banning, don’t recognize that right and feel people can be compelled to provide unwilling service is the irony.