By Kristina Pritchett
Backlash was swift following a Cinco de Mayo event at Hennessey’s Tavern in Dana Point that involved inviting patrons to climb an inflatable “border” wall to earn a green card that came with free drinks.
After the event began, many people took to social media to share a photo of the wall and the card.
Over the weekend, Hennessey wrote on the restaurant’s Facebook page, “I would like to thank everyone for your comments about our climbing wall. Our intentions were to create a dialogue and show how ridiculous that it is to spend tens of millions of dollars to build a wall and even infer that Mexico foot some or the entire bill and have their citizens build it.”
Paul Hennessey, owner of the restaurant, said in an interview that it was unfortunate people didn’t see the advertising.
“Some people didn’t understand that weren’t at the event or didn’t see the advertising, it was clearly a protest against the government building a wall,” Hennessey said. “It’s kind of ridiculous to be spending the money on that.”
He said the restaurant put the event’s advertising online and inside their restaurant. Hennessey said it read “We’re building a wall, it’s not what you think.” He said it also read “Tacos trump hate.”
Vanessa Santos, a Ladera Ranch resident, said she didn’t attend the event but saw photos on social media of the wall and the “green card.”
“I don’t want my kids to think that that event is funny or okay to support,” Santos said. “I found it really offensive.”
She said she called the restaurant and asked for details of the event and was put on hold before being hung up on.
“I called every other location and they didn’t have [a similar] event,” Santos said.
Santos she is part of a group, Together We Will Orange County, and many of the members have left negative Yelp reviews and messages with Hennessey’s corporate office.
According to their Facebook page, Together We Will Orange County is an advocacy group which aims to directly combat harmful and intolerant policies that don’t respect the dignity of the American people.
Teri Bickley, another member, said the event was “blatantly racist” and was in poor taste.
“Hours later they came out with the response; it’s totally a joke,” Bickley said. “Why didn’t they say it was an educational moment from the beginning?”