On a regular Thursday, breakfast service at Cafe Cito in Hampden would be in full swing—with staff pouring coffee and serving up the restaurant’s signature egg sandwiches. But this morning, the spot sat vacant.
Owner Dave Sherman made the decision to close his restaurant today in conjunction with A Day Without Immigrants—a national protest that aims to show the significant role that immigrants play in the food service industry, and society overall.
“Immigrants are the backbone of the entire industry,” Sherman says. “I don’t know if people realize that. Whether it’s picking vegetables, plating vegetables, washing dishes, serving, or cooking, there are so many elements of the food culture we live and survive in that are based on immigrants and their contributions to this country.”
The protest comes in the wake of President Donald Trump’s recent immigration ban that barred immigrants and refugees in seven countries from entering the United States. The ban hit particularly close to home for locals last weekend, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement served a warrant and made an arrest in Fells Point.
Other eateries that have vowed to shutter their doors in solidarity with the local immigrant community include Ekiben, Sweet 27 Bakery, The Local Fry, Alma Cocina Latina, Dovecote Cafe, and all of the restaurants owned by Foreman Wolf, which include Charleston, Cinghiale, Bar Vasquez, Johnny’s, and two Petit Louis locations in Roland Park and Columbia. In addition, the Foreman Wolf group will halt all production of its house-made bread, pasta, and pastries today.
“As immigrants and the sons of immigrants, the three owners of Ekiben have chosen to stand in solidarity with those affected by the recent laws limiting immigration to our great country,” Ekiben owner Steve Chu wrote in a message posted to Facebook yesterday. “We serve the same dope food and dish out the same excellent service to our customers regardless of their political inclination. We hope our customers and our city can respect this choice.”
Though the shutdown will have a particularly significant impact on dinner spots, given its occurrence on a Thursday night, Sherman stresses the importance of promoting acceptance.
“It was important for us to take a stand in support of all the people who are not feeling safe and secure,” he says. “Overall I hope it sends a message of acceptance and love. That’s what Cafe Cito is all about—giving people an opportunity and letting them take advantage of it.”