As Dallasites showered moms with flowers and pricy, packed brunches Sunday, West End restaurant Ellen's took a different Mother's Day approach: The restaurant donated $15,000 to Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
It's been an intense week for Ellen's. Two weeks ago, as more than 70,000 people swarmed downtown Dallas for an National Rifle Association convention, Ellen's owner Joe Groves posted a photo on Facebook showing a copy of a restaurant receipt that read, "Thanks for visiting Ellen's! A portion of this week's proceeds will be donated to organizations dedicated to implementing reasonable and effective gun regulations. Welcome to Dallas!"
"I’m making a list of the vile, racist, moronic conversations overheard from NRA attendees eating at the restaurant," Groves wrote on Facebook. "They don’t even speak softly."
The Facebook post was later deleted, but media — both local and national — quickly picked up the story, and it went viral.
"Within hours of the message being placed on the receipts, the NRA was aware of it and issued a boycott of the restaurant that was read and retweeted by tens of thousands of people," Ellen's said in a press release. "The reaction was instantaneous and overwhelming, with feedback streaming in from around the world. Over the next four days, the restaurant received thousands of social media post comments, multiple threats, fake reviews, prank phone calls, and visits from individuals who stood outside the restaurant to discourage people from dining there."
Still, Ellen's management claims the PR stunt was more beneficial than not.
"The positive response to the boycott was far greater, with an outpouring of support in the form of patronage, verbal and written comments of support, and, importantly, in the form of donations to the cause," according to the release. "The entire Ellen’s team is excited that the 'receipt heard around the world' has taken on a life of its own, bringing in donations and support from around the globe."
The restaurant hosted a special Mother's Day event to double down on its gun control stance by donating $15,000 — both from its profits and customer donations — to Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a group advocating for gun law reform.
"Moms Demand Action envisions a country where all children and families are safe from gun violence," according to the press release. "They are educating, motivating, and mobilizing supporters to take action that will result in stronger laws and policies to save lives."
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Ellen's management maintains it supports the Second Amendment, "along with an understanding that we must protect our children in schools and police officers in the line of duty," according to the release. "Ellen’s ownership and staff were deeply affected by the attack on Dallas Police officers that took place just a few blocks from the restaurant on July 7, 2016. Those six officers were friends of the restaurant and the West End Historic District. After the NRA’s inadequate response to those killings, just like to every other similar incident in recent years, Ellen’s wanted not only to honor those fallen officers, but also to find ways to support efforts to prevent such tragedies from happening in the future."
In the press release, Donna Schmidt, a local organizer for Moms Demand Action's Dallas chapter, said, “The vast majority of Americans, including the vast majority of NRA members, support responsible gun laws. We're grateful to Ellen's for standing up for common sense and are grateful for their donation.”
Groves, who says he grew up in a family that owned guns and hunted, said in the release that the modern NRA is "not the NRA that I knew as a young man."
"The NRA today is focused on money, lobbying and politicizing the subject by creating a false narrative that the boogie-man is lurking out there to take away everyone’s guns," Groves said. "That is simply not true. After the Parkland shooting, the NRA even stooped to disparaging and mocking the victims themselves. I cannot support the NRA in its current form and under its current leadership.”