Letter: Our community’s café

Re: “Atticus charged with discrimination” (Jan. 22): Atticus has recently come under fire for its policy of requesting its mostly Spanish speaking waitstaff to use English around customers and many around campus have judged Atticus harshly. As a Yale student and 19-year New Haven resident who has frequented Atticus often, I want to set the record straight.

Atticus’ policy was meant to make its customers feel welcome. As a business, the owner, manager and staff’s highest goal is serving their patrons. In making the policy, the café’s management was trying to create an inclusive environment where patrons felt comfortable interacting with the staff.

Moreover, Atticus is not discriminatory toward its immigrant employees — as the article noted, Charlie Negaro runs free English classes and other services for his personnel.

The café has done so much more for the community than merely provide excellent food in a warm atmosphere — it has added to a vibrant New Haven community.

For five years as a middle and high school student, I organized fundraising drives for the Connecticut Food Bank, in which students asked passerbys outside local businesses for donations. Atticus was one such business. Over $36,000 — more than a third of all donations — originated outside the store year after year. Negaro allowed students to petition his customers for donations and even brought us hot chocolate on cold days.

Recently, Negaro gave permission for The Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project to do similar fundraising on his premises.

Before we jump to any conclusions about Atticus or its customers, we should take stock of what they have done for the community. I know Charlie Negaro as a caring person who has worked with gusto to tackle the monumental problem of hunger in New Haven. Through his recent policy, he and his management were simply creating an inclusive atmosphere for all who frequented the café. Though his critics judge him on the basis of some coverage in the News, they should remember how instrumental Atticus has been in the fight to make this city a more humane place.

Nathaniel Zelinsky

Jan. 24

The writer is freshman in Davenport College.

Comments

  • Atticus tutor ’10

    here, here!

  • ?

    Did I miss the irony? Cuz it’s “hear, hear.”

    My real question, though: Any relation to Paul?

  • John Picone

    Our son started at Yale last Sept as a freshman and my wife and I spent a week in New Haven making sure he was settled and had everything he needed. We are from Australia and craved a coffee like they make “back home” and consequently spent much time in Atticus due to the great coffee, good food and welcoming atmosphere.
    Whilst there, we observed some people who would have been asked to leave other establishments due to their idiosyncrasies not only tolerated, but made feel comfortable. This made us feel good about frequenting Atticus purely from a human perspective.
    We did notice that the staff spoke mainly Spanish amongst themselves but it did not worry us at the time. Having said that, I think they should be encouraged to speak English if they are attending English classes as it would help them improve their fluency. It can be uncomfortable to interrupt people speaking a different language when you don’t understand the conversation – is it work related or are they just gossiping?
    We found the manager to be always a friendly and happy person who greeted his employees in a bright and cheerful manner each morning we were there. In my opinion to label Atticus discriminatory is very much misguided and quite the opposite of what they are achieving with their employment and customer policy.