As a restaurant employee, industry lingo can make you feel like you’re part of a club with its own secret language. Referring to a table for two as a “deuce” or a “two-top”; bitching with your fellow servers about how “in the weeds” you are when the dining room is full and there’s still a hundred “covers”; and instinctively knowing to yell “corner!” when coming around a blind corner with a full tray of food or cocktails are all part of the game. And, of course, many people even outside the business know that when an item is “86’ed," it means the dish is no longer available. It’s gone. Cancelled. Taken off the menu. Bad customers can also get 86'ed, meaning they're thrown out and typically not allowed to return to the bar or restaurant in the future.
On Election Day this year, a cheeky Rhode Island Mexican restaurant called Amigos Taqueria y Tequila wanted to make it clear that they wanted to see Donald Trump similarly cancelled at the White House, and to express that, their staff chose to don black t-shirts with “86 45” emblazoned in bold white letters, as well as sell them to patrons. The restaurant’s owner, Wendy Carr, says she was calling for the impeachment of the president. But a local Republican politician interpreted that “86” a little differently.
“For a person it means murder … to 86 somebody means murder,” said RI State Senator Elaine Morgan, who was re-elected to her third term on the evening of November 6. The Westerly Sun reported that Morgan posted this statement to her personal Facebook account, visible only to her friends, calling for her constituents to boycott Amigos. She re-upped those calls in interviews with the Sun just last week. She's also been doubling down on her belief that the restaurant really was calling for violence against the president, posting to her official Facebook page a screenshot of a comment from a supporter claiming that while working in the restaurant industry, she had never heard "86" used in the way Amigos intended it (which, frankly, seems improbable at best).
The restaurant has been receiving backlash ever since. Its Yelp page was flooded with negative reviews and pro-Trump comments, as were its other social media pages, all of which have now either been made private or taken down completely. The taco and tequila bar’s website has been replaced with a single landing page containing a letter from Carr about the whole controversy, as well as a screen shot of a mobile Google search for the term “what does 86 45 mean,” as if to say, “Did I really have to do that for you?” (The Google card at the top of the search results page sums it up: “Impeach Trump… POTUS # 45. 86 is industry slang that means to throw out, get rid of, nix, or to eject someone.”)
In Carr’s statement on the site, which is written entirely in all-caps for a true righteous screed effect, she writes, “Violence or murder was never implied by anyone at our restaurant, ever. The only person to imply violence was Rhode Island District 34 State Senator Elaine Morgan and those who have since shared and built upon the momentum she created through her social media post.” She says that the restaurant has received non-stop phone calls threatening and harassing their staff, and others have Photoshopped images of the restaurant’s Facebook posts about the T-shirts, making it appear that they had called for Trump's murder.
“I am deeply troubled that as an elected state official, Elaine Morgan, would make up a malicious story about Amigos and call for a boycott of a local business solely because I, the owner, have a different political view than herself,” Carr concludes. “People can agree, disagree, but most importantly I believe they should listen to one another, respect each other, and commit to TRUTHFUL dialogue.”
MUNCHIES attempted to reach out to the restaurant via phone for further comment, but its voice mailbox was full and all other contact information has been removed.
According to Boston.com, Carr says the shirts won’t be sold at the restaurant or worn by employees anymore. But if you’re in or passing through the Westerly, RI area any time soon and craving tacos or a smothered burrito with a nice margarita, Amigos’ doors are still open. (And you can still find other variations of that "86 45"-themed apparel elsewhere on the webs.)