Restaurant chain Dairy Queen has ended its corporate franchise agreement with a store in Zion, Illinois, following a racially charged incident in which the restaurant owner, who’s white, hurled racial slurs at a biracial woman and her two children.
On Friday, Dairy Queen spokesman Dean Peters said the details of the franchise agreement termination had been squared away and would take effect immediately. Peters said the store would remain closed and would not re-open as a Dairy Queen unless under new ownership.
“The recent actions of this franchisee are inexcusable, reprehensible, unacceptable and do not represent the values of the Dairy Queen family, our employees, fans and other independent franchises around the world,” Dairy Queen corporate said in a statement. “We expect our franchisees and their employees to treat every single person who walks through their doors with the utmost dignity and respect. Nothing less is acceptable.”
The franchise agreement termination stemmed from an incident last week where restaurant owner James Crichton of Lake Villa used racial slurs to describe customer Deianeira Ford, 21, and her two children. Ford said the racist rant began when she returned to the Dairy Queen on Wednesday, Jan. 4, for a $5 refund, as her order had not been filled correctly.
The young woman took to Facebook to share details of the “embarrassing” incident, noting that at one point during the heated exchange, her young daughter asked what the racial slur meant. Ford also said that when she asked Crichton his name, he responded, “Bill Clinton,” but then said, “Better yet, I’m Donald Trump.” He then told Ford to “go back where you came from.”
Ford’s claims were later backed by a police report filed by a Zion officer who responded to the young woman’s 911 call that day. The officer wrote that Crichton had “proudly admitted to calling Ford a slur” and would be “happy to go to jail over the issue.”
He added that he was “fed up with Black people,” according to the officer’s report.
However, the officer noted that Crichton later denied using racially offensive language against the young woman after that same officer returned to the store to respond to a different call later that day, calling Ford’s claims “99 percent lies.”
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The store owner has since apologized for his actions, the Lake County News-Sun reported.
“I take full responsibility of my actions,” Crichton said in a statement released by Peters on Friday. “As the owner of this restaurant, I should be a model for others. My actions were inexcusable and unacceptable.”
“What I said was not appropriate and is something I cannot take back” he added. “I have no excuse. I can only ask for forgiveness and try to make it up to all involved.”
Crichton’s apology, however, hasn’t stopped the wave of public backlash and calls for his restaurant to be closed. Clyde McLemore of the Lake County Black Lives Matter chapter said he and community members had planned to protest outside the restaurant Saturday, Jan. 7, but instead turned their demonstration into a “celebration” amid news that the Dairy Queen had been closed.
“This satisfies Black Lives Matter,” McLemore said.
Ford has since expressed appreciation for Dairy Queen’s swift action in rectifying the situation.
“Just how quickly everything happened, I mean, it’s been, what, a few days? And the support and everything that’s happened is just overwhelming,” she said. “I’m absolutely amazed at how everything turned out.”