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.

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