One of the most outrageous parts of the passage of RFRA is it gave huge swaths of people who have never visited the state a blanket reason not to even try. For the hospitality business, this kind of legislation (and the horrific PR storm that followed) is nothing short of a nightmare. A lot of owners have expressed frustration over the bill because they've worked so hard to make sure the local dining and beverage scene welcomes all, and everyone knows they're welcome. We chronicled some of our favorite responses to RFRA on Nuvo.net/food, from the simple hand-drawn signs to professionally-applied, permanent window decals. The reply from the majority of the community has simply been a succinct "No."
In fact, there has been only one confirmed restaurant owner who has publicly supported the bill: Big Apple Bagels in Brownsburg's franchise owner posted a bold and permanent whiteboard message of support for "our governor Mike Pence," right where patrons could see it moments after they paid. The sign has been erased, it seems, and the corporate office is investigating this bold stance of toroidal carbohydrates in favor of religious liberty, which, ironically, came to the United States via the Polish-Jews that Big Apple's owners are now legally allowed to deny service if it conflicts with their own religious beliefs.
And as it turns out, the author of the bill, Scott Schneider, is the Vice President of Sales for Mister Ice, one of Indiana's largest dealers of ice making equipment and supplies. So the owners of these businesses are ditching their Mister Ice makers in response, hitting the Indiana lawmakers the only place where they still seem to have some feeling: their wallets.
We first heard of the movement to ditch Mister Ice from Some Guys Pizza general manager Charley Sterne.
"I had heard about Mister Ice through social media. So I did some of my own research and found that Schneider was the author [of SB101]," he said. Sterne shared this information with Some Guys owners Keith and Nancy Carey, and they're now in the process of doing the right thing with that information: getting rid of all their machines. And they're far from the only ones.
Sterne confirmed one major player in the Mister Ice movement is Martha Hoover, whose lineup of restaurants include Cafe Patachou, Napolese, Petite Chou and Public Greens. Between Hoover and the Careys, we're already talking about a loss of at least 12 restaurants for the ice vendor.
Annie Zoll at Zesco, our local restaurant supplier, also confirmed that she knew of a few more owners getting rid of their Mister Ice machines, but was unable to confirm exactly whom all is planning to switch businesses.
The reaction is one of revenge, no doubt, after unnecessary legislation like RFRA threatens to bleed our economic viability dry. According to Sterne, Schneider's father, the company's owner, is pulling out every last desperate stop to keep his own business from failing. Unfortunately, he is apparently doing so by trying to re-explain the bill to his customers.
There is some good news in all this though: some non-hateful, non-damaging-legislation-writing ice dealers are about to have an absolute explosion of business.