Ignite Restaurant Group Inc. has apologized for an “offensive” photo of an 1895 lynching that was embedded in a table at a Joe’s Crab Shack restaurant in Roseville, Minn., and removed it after two African-American customers encountered it Wednesday, the company said Friday. 

David Catalano, chief operating officer of Houston-based Ignite, said in a statement: “We understand one of the photos used in our table decor at our Joe’s Crab Shack location in Roseville, Minn., was offensive. 

“We take this matter very seriously, and the photo in question was immediately removed,” Catalano said. “We sincerely apologize to our guests who were disturbed by the image and we look forward to continuing to serve the Roseville community.”

One of the customers, Tyrone Williams, founder and CEO of Black Coalition clothing, posted a picture of the table on his Facebook page when he dined at the Roseville location Wednesday night.

“This is on our table at Joe's Crab shack in Roseville, MN it's the lynching of two black men in Groesbeck, Texas, in 1895,” he wrote. “They we're [sic] accused of robbing and murdering a white man with a rock it's sad this is the image we have to look at in a Crab Shack that has nothing to do with Texas.”

Williams and his dining companion, Chauntyll Allen, appeared Thursday at a press conference with Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP and a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law.

At the press conference, Williams said, “We just felt sick and confused,” the Star Tribune reported.

Ignite had not by press time answered emailed questions about whether other Joe’s Crab Shacks nationwide might have similar table decor.

Allen and Williams said the manager of the Joe’s location apologized and offered them free meals, but they were not interested.

Levy-Pounds, the Star Tribune reported, urged the restaurant chain to go beyond a public apology and removal of the table and suggested that Joe’s make a donation to an organization focused on African-American youth. She also urged other restaurants to check their decor for offending photographs.

As of Dec. 29, Ignite owned and operated 130 Joe’s Crab Shack restaurants and 23 Brick House Tavern + Tap units.

Contact Ron Ruggless at ronald.ruggless@penton.com.
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