O'Mei Santa Cruz restaurant closes owner David Duke supporter
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O’Mei Closed After Wrath Over Owner’s Support for David Duke

A sign on the Mission Street restaurant’s front door does not say when—or if—it will reopen

O’Mei, Santa Cruz’s Chinese restaurant on Mission Street, hadn’t gotten a review on yelp.com in a month and a half as of Saturday, Aug. 19.

That’s usually a sign that a restaurant is the kind of place where customers get what they’re expecting, with few surprises. You know, all around non-controversial.

But in the days after Thursday, Aug. 20—when news broke on Indybay.org that owner Roger Grigsby had financially supported white supremacist David Duke’s run for office—O’Mei received at least 35 one-star reviews denouncing it. Some were more creative than others; Santa Cruz’s Ian B. offered, “The swat-stickers were all right.”

Another three customers commented casually on the food, but also implored fellow reviewers to leave politics out of the discussion or suggested that maybe we don’t know the whole story.

Then suddenly this past weekend, the restaurant was closed—a sign hung on the door criticizing “rumors” on the internet. Right, because everyone knows you can’t believe what you read online. I mean, unless, of course, there’s some kind of proof.

According to federal election records, Grigsby, of Santa Cruz, donated $500 to Duke—former imperial wizard for the Ku Klux Klan and loudmouthed Holocaust denier—in Duke’s recent campaign for the U.S. Senate in Louisiana a year ago. Grigsby did not return phone calls seeking comment, although GT did play a brief game of phone tag with an O’Mei employee on Friday. [Update 1 p.m. 8/30/17: After we went to print, Grigsby emailed KPIX, the CBS News Bay Area affiliate, to say that his $500 campaign contribution was “to one of the men supporting European American civil rights.” He cited the new backlash against him as part of a “war on whites.”]

But that was before the restaurant’s “closed” sign went up, and no one has answered our calls, or returned them, in the days since. So it’s anyone’s guess, at this point, whether or not they’ll reopen.

Donald Wittman, an economics professor at UCSC, says he likes O’Mei’s food, and he would prefer to give Grigsby the benefit of the doubt, at least until he hears the owner’s side of the story. But even still, Wittman can’t imagine what kind of explanation could convince him to ever eat there again—assuming O’Mei ever reopens its doors anyway.

Wittman says he already had known Grigsby to have conservative leanings. And that much, he felt he could stomach.

“I wouldn’t’ stop eating somewhere because of those reasons, but racism goes a step beyond what is accepted,” he says. “That crosses a line. Sometimes racism is hidden. You can say you don’t like certain kinds of polices the way they’re written. But here, it’s very clear: David Duke is racist.”

The $500 amount for the Duke donation is honestly puzzling—not enough to make a difference in a primary effort where Duke garnered just 3 percent of the vote, but obviously more than enough to piss off loyal Santa Cruz customers and incur the wrath of social media. In a city full of politically conscious people frustrated as hell that they have been largely forced to the geographical sidelines of the fight against white supremacists (who proved that the most vile, David-Duke-fueled strains of American racism are alive and well by beating African Americans and murdering a counter-protester in Charlottesville), Indybay’s revelation provided an outlet. It was something tangible and local on which to unload weeks worth of righteous anger.

Yelp has begun taking down new comments, and the site has posted a pop-up notification on the page acknowledging that the business has recently made the news (which, of course, is the understatement of the week). Current events are prompting what Yelp calls an “active cleanup alert,” according to the note, because “While we don’t take a stand one way or the other when it comes to these news events, we do work to remove both positive and negative posts that appear to be motivated more by the news coverage that the reviewer’s personal consumer experience with the business.”

Hmm, well, at least Yelp—unlike Grigsby—is willing to own up to its actions and offer an explanation. 


Update 1 p.m. 8/30/17: After we went to print, Grigsby emailed KPIX, the CBS News Bay Area affiliate, to say that his $500 campaign contribution was “to one of the men supporting European American civil rights.” He cited the new backlash against him as part of a “war on whites.”

News Editor at |

Jacob, the news editor at Good Times, won the 2014 award for best local government coverage from the California Newspaper Publishers Association. A longtime basketball and football fanatic, Jacob has evolved into a shameless fair weather fan and band wagoner for hot West Coast sports teams. He also enjoys arguing with others about where to find the best burrito in town.

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Brian

    September 3, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    Uh, so a white guy appropriates Chinese culture to line his pocket, but then has a problem with “a war on whites”? It’s not that he’s racist, it’s that he’s a clueless asshole. Fuck him.

  2. Andrew Pereira

    September 1, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    Why is it that the richest, most powerful group of people (middle-aged white men) in the history of human civilization want now, so desperately, to feel and be viewed as victims? Why not just shut the “F” up and enjoy the spoils of your position in the world? … you bunch of bellowing babies!

  3. Barry Dumont

    September 1, 2017 at 8:26 am

    BTW Roger Grigsby, this “stupid, I mean ignorant” (as per the Sentinel) attacker would be happy to debate you anty time on the merits of blatant racism vs the uber rights of white european males, as long as I do not have to sit too close to you. Please bring an order of Gan Pung chicken with a side of dumplings!

  4. Guy Chapman

    August 31, 2017 at 11:54 pm

    I am amused by the irony of a business selling ethnic Asian food run by a white supremacist. Double irony, actually: has he never heard of lunch counter protests?

    If you run a service business and you’re a bigot, you may lose trade. That’s not oppression. The world does not owe you a living.

  5. Fairuza Balk

    August 31, 2017 at 10:31 pm

    Elke… So, so troubled. You don’t see the big picture, here. The citizens here, sans you, the gay Republican, Grigsby and other seedy characters creeping in the shadows and closets, are done with the overt systematic racism, and are in the process of eliminating it from our midst. Change is scary, especially for people like you, who have it inculcated so deeply in your soul, but just remember what your good ol’ boys say, and take it to heart: “If you don’t like America, then you can just git [sic] out.” Pack yer bags, Elke. Europe (home) awaits.

  6. Fairuza Balk

    August 31, 2017 at 10:23 pm

    Elke… So, so troubled by this. You can’t blame black people for this guy’s actions. You fail to see the big picture. People over here, sans you and that Grigsby, the gay Republican, and other seedy residents, are sick of the overt racial undertones that are around them and are in the process of eliminating it from their midst. What’s that saying that your “good ol’ boys” say? Oh! That’s right, “If you don’t like America, then you can just git [sic] out.” Pack your bags, human. Europe (home) awaits.

  7. Berto

    August 31, 2017 at 8:51 pm

    All American society needs is a good
    bit of earnest, rational soul-searching and self-editing–no need for another civil war, Ned… Your insight that some racists are misguided, educable individuals is, in my experience with some of them, a true one. Elke, you make some cogent points, too, at least from my perspective as a life-long liberal, gay Democrat (class of UCSC summer session ’75, where I studied Shakespeare, painting & scuba diving–one of the best experiences of my life!), but now, one who’s moved toward the center and ever since June 16, 2015 I’m an unabashed–even now–Trump supporter.
    But, Elke, you ruin your pungent, blunt-truths advocacy with statements like: “telling the truth about black people…is
    racist.”. That, the very epitome of racist presumption! Instead, isn’t “telling the truth about some self-defeating elements of black culture, broadly-construed”—a wiser
    formulation? Especially, as all human cultures have their own myopic pitfalls as well as pinnacles of virtue. Even Chomsky denounces Antifa and its violent tactics–and the NJ Homeland Security Office last month declared the three antifa branches there to be “domestic terrorists” and “extremist anarchists.”. Chomsky & Christie, strange political bedfellows indeed!
    Barry, you do concede being for a moment “cohesive-thought challenged” but you actually wrote: “…what rights have ‘European American white men’ [ever] abrogated…?”. Don’t capitulate so readily! You meant, of course, what rights of white Americans have ever been violated–or abrogated? How about “open border” policies with lots of magnets & incentives that find well-meaning Santa Cruzans defending vile & violent MS13 thugs, many of them illegally here, from arrest & deportation–which abrogates every American’s right to a safe, secure, tolerant and peaceful society–not just European American white males’ right to the same…

    • Barry Dumont

      September 1, 2017 at 5:09 am

      Berto: excuse any typos on my part, but hey man lets talk issues not spelling, syntax or grammar! To even imply that “white people” somehow suffer the abrogation of their rights exclusively, without considering that all CITIZENS, no matter what color, creed or gender are not equally effected by these issues, is a racist statement. No-one supports the diminishment of rights by criminal elements in our society. Should we close the borders around Chicago, Compton, Santa Cruz, or other problem areas with “violent MS13 thugs”? We, as a society, need to decide what the “free” part of freedom means.

  8. Bernie

    August 31, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    Elke, this guy supports a leader of the KKK for office. You think people overreacted? The KKK was formed in reaction to black people getting basic human rights. What race are you? Do you know a lot about being oppressed and victimized for you race or religion? It sounds like you don’t really understand racism or why people in Santa Cruz might not want someone like that flying under the radar serving them food for 35 years. He had a good run, but if you want to be open about your beliefs and donate to David Duke, which is public record, then maybe move somewhere away from the shadow of UCSC to sell your swat-stickers.

  9. Ned Hogan

    August 31, 2017 at 6:13 am

    Rumor has it the staff quit and that’s why they closed, maybe reopen when they find new staff. Anyone know how long Grigsby has been the owner? I’ve gotten to know several O’Mei managers over the years and never a hint of racism when I was there, just your standard UCSC waiter. Never met Grigsby, is he even onsite? I grew up in the south, nothing new here from my perspective, racism is a fact of life just about everywhere in the US. Without knowing his background it would be unfair to speculate further or put him on par with the likes of David Duke just because he gave him money. If he is a closet racist maybe he needs some help and publically shaming him may only make things worse. I am sure many people just as soon run him out of town. We’ve already had one civil war, do we need another to finally resolve this issue? Seems that is the direction President Trump is taking us. Excellent observation as to people venting their frustrations on a local figure when we appear helpless to address the national issue. O’Mei was uniquely Santa Cruz and it is a shame that it comes to what appears to be a tragic end.

  10. Barry Dumont

    August 31, 2017 at 3:33 am

    Wow, right here on the Westside, a UCSC graduate, an iconic decades old WS institution, a local owner and an avowed racist advocating “men supporting European American civil rights”, in other words a neo-facist, racist, homophobe in our midst. Who’d a thunk it! I would love to have one of these a-holes tell me what rights “European American white men” have abrocated in our lily white history! If it did not make me so angry and I was not so cohesive thought challenged, I would write a novel about it. Are you reading this Nancy Lynn Jarvis? When I think off all the money I have spent there over the years and my wife spent at his wife’s Chen Gallery, it makes me want to throw up, not for the money, but for sustaining a pig. The only thing is….would anyone mind if I contacted him to wrestle away the recipe for his Gan Pung chicken, unlike any other anywhere. As Homer would say, ” Mmmmm!” Lets out them all!, and then do what we can to bring down all the haters! This is 2017…a time for real, substantive change! We, not they, are the Patriots! We need to tell people who we are! I am Barry Dumont.

    • JB

      September 1, 2017 at 11:44 pm

      Right. “Who’d a thunk it!” Kind of part of the problem 🙂 Pretty much all people have thinking problems. Me too. I’ll miss his food. Him? Not so much.

    • Jamie

      November 9, 2017 at 7:53 pm

      Shen’s Gallery and the owner has no tie to Omei restaurant for over 15 years since her divorce. Please be careful to not spread false news about innocent people.

  11. Elke

    August 31, 2017 at 2:32 am

    People in this town are blind. You cannot see what is right in front of you. If you want to know who rules you, just ask who you cannot criticize. You can criticize white people all day long and it is this town’s favorite indoor sport. You can say whites are stupid, entitled, worthless and the fault of all of the world’s ills. But you cannot say that black people are stealing hairweaves in Houston instead of helping out the flood victims because oh my gosh….telling the truth about black people (the saints of the US nowadays, the sacred cows) is RACIST.

    I used to be liberal. I would have voted for Bernie Sanders. But the way the Left is behaving now, I am ashamed I ever was a liberal. I still support trade unions, my husband belongs to one. I still support a livable wage and women’s right to choose children but I support FREE SPEECH MORE. I think it is important to hear all views. In the 1970’s the KKK did a round of road trips speaking in various towns. Do you think liberals turned out to throw piss on the police and beat down the KKK marchers? We couldn’t be bothered!! We ignored them entirely. We didn’t give them oxygen. The police stood on the sidelines as they spoke to themselves basically and then they went home and so did the police. End of story. This antifa bullshit is FASCIST itself! Can’t you people SEE THAT? Not allowing free speech is what was in in Stalin’s Russia and Castro’s Cuba. Don’t you people see that?? Plus, i believe people should take care of themselves. If black people want a better life, quit letting your LIFE COACH be gangsta rappers and organize a FREAKING LABOR UNION for better working conditions. If you want to get your skull cracked in, don’t be ANTIFA, at least do it marching for better labor conditions and wages. Dumbasses. Pull up your pants by the way and wear a belt. Learn some manners and respect your elders. That is AT LEAST what some of those white good old boys know how to do. Dress for success, have some manners and respect their elders.

    • Barry Dumont

      September 1, 2017 at 5:16 am

      Elke, I can not even respond to your hate, nor do I know where to start. You were never a liberal, believe me! I notice you mention one particular color several times. Maybe you need to re-evaluate your unbiased thinking and buy a box of crayons. BTW, they are arranged without pattern, not by color!

      • Barry Dumont

        September 1, 2017 at 6:09 am

        Oops, I think they are arranged by color. Thank god we are not a crayon box!

    • Andrew Pereira

      September 1, 2017 at 9:12 pm

      Tips from rednecks and hillbillies … thanks, Elke. That’s helpful. As are your simple, easy, common sense solutions to the seemingly intractable problems of the inner city … like, “organize a FREAKING LABOR UNION …” Thank you, we’ll get right on that.

      Elke, have you ever met an actual black person? Or, are you basing your stereotypes on music videos and old Dragnet re-runs? (Now’s the time to express your outrage at the implication of such questions and inform us that one of your best friends is Black) Also, keep in mind that I’m quite likely an “elder” (to you), so you need to respect me.

      • Andrew Pereira

        September 1, 2017 at 9:15 pm

        I meant, “Fashion tips from rednecks and hillbillies ….”

  12. Sara

    August 31, 2017 at 2:07 am

    Jacob,
    I am glad that you published this update on the status of O’mei. I would have hoped that your fellow GT writer, Christina Waters, would have chosen to retract her early defenses of Roger. I feel pity for her as she seemed close to him, or better yet the thought of what she knew of him…unless I am completely wrong and she is cool with his beliefs. That being said, good riddance O’mei.

    • Kenneth

      September 3, 2017 at 2:35 am

      Sara,

      If you are aware of Christina’s defense for Roger, then I’m sure you were aware that her defense was done through private message which she did not consent it to be published on that IndyBay article. Bless her gentle heart, the worst she could do is to retract what she thought was the worst display of ethics in journalism.

      But sadly we are all willing to gather around a lynch mob for a mere accusation of racism made by this sad excuse of a Bay Area journalist, Lynda Carson, who not only bullied an old man out of his business but exposed his whereabouts. His private expenditure, in case if anyone haven’t realized, is none of our business and certainly doesn’t warrant the character assassination he received.

      Funny that not a single local media wants to mention the fact that Carson’s witch hunt for anyone who have supported Duke went from NorCal to Maryland, coincidentally all liberal cities, with the intention to publicly shame our fellow locals by labeling he or she as racist without any solid evidence that they are. (No, giving money to a media-circus politician only make that person “bad with money.” Not a racist)

      I also find it funny that every single article I’ve read on this matter, criminally paraphrased Roger’s public statement as nothing more than “I’m a victim of this war against Whites.” When in reality, Roger’s statement included the list of actual damages done since publication of the article, as well as his doubt towards media giving him a fair representation and his hypothesis of this lynch mob being not about him or O’Mei but a nationwide witch hunt instigated by a corrupt journalist; both of them proven to be true.

      So before you judge someone based on a headline written by a person who can’t even proofread correctly, perhaps we ought to give our local the benefit of the doubt. Heck, his personal address has been published already. Why not make a trip there yourself and actually question him personally?

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