The event took place at American Bites, a restaurant and bar on Green Street, in mid-May, and was detailed in a piece by former restaurant critic and current columnist Soleil Ho of the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday. The piece gave an inside look into the misinformation embedded into the current state of conservative rhetoric in the Bay Area. Anti-trans legislation that has overtaken political dialogue across the country amid a national debate on the ethics of transgender treatment for minors, specifically, and overlaps with the nationwide rise in anti-drag legislation and politicization of what some call “transgenderism” broadly.
Criticism started pouring in almost immediately after the article went live, with many focusing on the American Bites Yelp page. An owner for the account replied to the criticism on Yelp, saying that to call the event “‘anti trans’ is simply false,” then went on to ensure the restaurant is “safe for anyone in the LGBTQIA community.”
Reached by phone on Thursday, managing partner Mike Saremy stated that he didn’t know how extreme the messaging at the event would be. “We did not know the content of this event,” Saremy says. “It was booked as a fundraiser for the Republican Party. We had no idea it was going to be anti-trans and all these outrageous remarks made.”
Saremy says he booked the event himself, thinking the night would be spent fundraising money for a political party he isn’t even a part of. But after Chronicle columnist Soleil Ho published a play-by-play of the event, the restaurant — at time of publication — had received more than 18 1-star reviews. Almost all the new reviews directly reference the article and event.
Saremy says the event organizers told him they’d play 30-to-40 minutes of a documentary and do a bit of fundraising, but he was unaware there would be anti-trans rhetoric. Ho described the evening as a procession of speakers warning about the rise of transgender children and Democrats, a surge in “mentally-ill” people pursuing gender-affirming care and surgery, and claims that, behind all this wokeness, is none other than Marxists. The event organizers hired security and kept details of the location hush-hush until customers paid for the ticket. “It was a bit strange,” Saremy says. “But we thought it was private so they could say whatever they wanted.”
Saremy, who says he’s lived in San Francisco since 1989, described himself as “a progressive liberal” who disagrees with the point of views expressed at the event. “If we knew, we would never have agreed to the event,” he says.
This isn’t the first time an establishment claims to have unwittingly accepted a private event contract for a Republican event. In July 2020, a Michigan cider producer and farm canceled an event hosted by U.S. congressional candidate Lisa McClain after customers took to social media calling for a boycott of the company’s products. The owners of Blake’s Hard Cider told Eater Detroit at the time there was a “miscommunication” about the event, which was billed to the public as a rally in support of President Donald Trump and the police.