CARLSBAD, N.M. (KRQE) – How far does a business’ right to refuse service go? That’s what one woman is asking after she says a restaurant refused to serve the homeless man she invited in as her guest.
Bamboo Garden Chinese Buffet sits off Canal Street in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Michael Adams lives under the bridge behind the restaurant. “I sleep and eat and everything right there under that bridge,” Adams said.
On Friday, Syann Armienta noticed the 65-year-old on her way to lunch.
“I saw Michael sitting there. I kept going but something was like ‘Turn around, he has to be hungry too,’” Armienta said.
She offered to buy Adams lunch at Bamboo Garden. She says she was shocked at the manager’s reaction. “I walked in behind him and I said ‘I would like to pay for his meal and a drink.’ She said, ‘No I can’t do that,’” she explained.
When Armienta asked why she says the manager told her it was because of the way Adams was dressed.
“I was like, ‘So you’re telling me he can’t eat here because he’s not dressed?’ and she said, ‘Yes and the odor’,” Armienta recalled of her conversation with the manager.
“’You’re discriminating against him because he’s homeless and cannot help his condition?’ and she said, ‘He cannot eat in here,’” she recalled.
Armienta says she then asked for a to-go plate, but the manager still said no. By that point, Adams had already left the restaurant. “What good is it going to do you to argue? She’s already made up her mind,” Adams said. He says he was not surprised by the response.
“They’re discriminating against other people. Why? Well maybe because I live on the streets,” he said.
When KXAN sister station KRQE reached out to Bamboo Garden, owners did not want to comment on camera. They said they have the right to refuse service but have served Adams multiple times.
That answer does not satisfy Armienta.
“At some point, you just have to have compassion for others. We need to take into consideration how they would feel. I mean he is standing right there as he is saying these things to me,” she said.
“With his head down, he says ‘It’s OK’ and heads for the door, and I’m like ‘That’s not OK.'”
Armienta says this experience convinced her she needs to do more. She has started the #IAmCarlsbad campaign to help Adams and others facing homelessness in Carlsbad.