Subject: copy of letter to Donnie Hui [Attn: Grace]
Date: Mon, 27 Jan 2020 13:40:55

I discussed this with Grace on the phone this morning.  [Thanks for
taking the call and the concern.]  Here's a forward of the note
I sent the GM of the M.J.O'Connor's "waterfront" location in the
Westin.  The incident(s) began on Sunday the 19th, brought to my
attention early that evening.  I gave some information to the duty
manager who was there, who probably just threw it away without
passing it on as asked.  I can supply an online copy if needed.

I haven't gotten anything back from Mr. Hui yet but I would
understand a need to take some time and understand/digest this.

Remediation should be effected at all of your locations.  There
is zero risk, and only better community goodwill and revenue to be
gained.  No changes other than applied training need to be made.



To: Donnie Hui <>
Subject: RE: Westin MJ's question
Date: Fri, 24 Jan 2020 20:53:43

I hope you can genuinely assist, and not just ignore or dismiss this
rather sad situation.  As you probably know, the Arisia science-fiction
convention event was last weekend in the Westin, where the MJ's and
City Bar were open to offer its attendees one of several options for
food and libation.  You probably understand that the clientele around
such an event is highly varied in appearance and presentation, but that
in theory you are welcoming to all.  It's even painted on your door.

It came to my attention rather suddenly on Sunday evening, via texts
and direct notifications from people who know me, that good-faith
patrons of the MJ's were being rudely ejected based on their appearance
or dress.  Discriminatory signs demanding footwear were placed at the
entrances, hastily printed up and pasted over some of your normal
signposts, in a distinctly unwelcoming way.  Even patrons simply
ordering takeout food were forced to wait outside the entrance for it,
with your staff refusing to accomodate well-meaning customers for the
short time of waiting.  Do you have any idea how demeaning that feels
on the receiving end, no matter who is being targeted?

This had not been any sort of problem over the first half of the
weekend, where unshod customers were cheerfully served and lo and
behold, the sky did not fall.  It was apparently a sudden change based
on someone's personal phobia or hangup, a distinct misunderstanding on
their part, but propagated into a dehumanized statement of "policy"
with no flexibility offered to those who simply wanted to eat.  It's a
poor excuse.  Evidently someone has bought into the old mythology about
"food establishments", which if you don't already know is a complete
falsehood, five minutes on the internet with a couple of relevant
searches can fix that for you, as well as for whoever on duty that
night instigated this nonsense.

Were you aware that any of this was going on?

Many people were upset and angry about the abrupt hostility, and many
pictures were taken of those signs and will invariably become a matter
of public record.  This is not the kind of publicity you want,
especially in the context of the event at hand.  Word got around
quickly, even outside of the convention-goers.  On chance I talked
with a pair of women in the lobby who weren't even attending the
convention but were simply in town staying at the hotel for something
else, *were shod*, but nonetheless were were asking *me* where they
could go to have a drink where discriminatory practice was not part of
the business model.  They refused to bring you any business simply on
that basis, in defense of sensibility.

Arisia is a very diverse and relaxed event, and a substantial part of
its attendance enjoys freeing its feet while on site.  This is a bit of
a tradition, and has generally been accepted by the Westin because it
is inherently harmless.  Some of us even work the convention on its
"shoulders" -- load-in and load-out, happily barefoot and confident
in what some would consider the "rougher" areas around the hotel: the
back-of-house hallways, ballrooms, loading docks, trucks, and outside.
This is routine for some of us, and our own choice and responsibility.

Or to put it in millennial-ese, "it's a thing".  And it is backed by
a growing awareness of the benefits.

Personally, I've avoided wearing shoes for health and mobility reasons
for many years, in a similar way that one would avoid smoking or
excess drinking.  There is plenty of science asserting that shoes are
ultimately harmful in many ways and that bare feet are healthy, and far
safer than most people realize.  Yes, I'll grant you that the lifestyle
is unusual, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with it.  And it's not
just me -- I wasn't even visiting either of your venues myself, I was
receiving the complaints because I happen to be one of the more vocal
advocates of the lifestyle within our fold.  I also go hiking and climb
mountains and drive trucks and work outdoors without shoes, in complete
confidence, and participate in various forums discussing the lifestyle.
Your staff may have seen some of the brown "barefooter" ribbons that
some of the Arisians were wearing -- I am the source of those, as well
as informational "five myths" flyers we distribute that help debunk
the most popular misconceptions.  You should have received one of those
from the manager on duty that night, who promised to pass it on to you.

Those misconceptions come only from social conditioning, which began
back in the Sixties when establishment owners found it a convenient
excuse to continue discriminating against "undesireables" like blacks
and hippies without crossing the Civil Rights act of 1964.  That's
where those dumb signs originally come from.  There has never been any
factual basis for this, despite various cooked-up lies like "health
code" or venue liability.  None of that is true, and yet it became so
entrenched that not only do many people believe it wholesale, they
actually develop phobias about feet as they grow up.  Fifty-plus years
later, we're still stuck with this nonsense and outright hatred.

One of the most pervasive and yet ridiculous mythologies centers
around food service, but one needs to look no farther than the website to find letters from every state in the Union that such
myths are completely false.  There are no "health codes" or the like
related to feet or shoes, and never have been.  Please do your due
diligence and study some of this for yourself.

None of this is a safety or liability concern to you, either.  People
accustomed to living unshod are well-conditioned and things like small
bits of glass or detritus are simply not a problem, indoors or out.  We
watch where we're going, and are more likely to pick up and dispose of
potentially injurious objects properly, rather than just leave them
there.  We know exactly what we're getting into when we walk into a
bar, and are fine with it.  We take full responsibility for ourselves,
which in fact is the legal truth of the situation and needs no hostile
intervention.  We are adults making our own decisions and do not need
or expect to be treated like five-year-olds, especially when so many
other diverse personal attributes and presentations are running around
at an event like Arisia in the space that we work hard to make feel
safe for them.  I am speaking for many of us, not just myself here.
With all the facts at hand, there is no *rational* argument against
something as harmless as barefooting, in food establishments or just
about anywhere else.

Basically, someone on duty that Sunday evening turned your "Failte"
into a total "fail".  This is nothing but bad for business, does not
protect you in any way, breeds community hostility, and just turns away
revenue.  You, and the Briar Group brands as a whole, would do well to
eliminate any such "policy" if it exists and get in line with the
growing trend toward tolerance.  Many high-profile corporations have
long since done away with those old unwelcoming signs and have educated
their management -- Target, Walmart, Dunk's, Trader Joes, Walgreens,
several regional grocery-store chains, the list goes on.  And from what
I was told, "Laugh Boston" right next door continued to welcome guests
throughout the weekend without any concern to what was on their feet.
Your signs served as a highly visible example of a paranoid screw-up,
and I hope you can hold the people responsible accountable and get
them up to speed on what "Cead Mile Failte" really means.

Thank you for your time; hopefully this works toward broad improvement.