A drag performer says she was barred from entering a popular fast food restaurant over the weekend, describing a situation that left her feeling "intimidated" and "outnumbered."
Erika Klash, who lives in San Francisco was visiting Austin, Texas to perform at the International Drag Festival when the alleged incident occurred, KVUE-TV reported.
After finishing her performance, Klash went to meet a friend at the iconic Southwestern burger chain, Whataburger. She told KVUE-TV that she doesn't usually go out to restaurants in full drag, but said it was late and realized she may want to pose for pictures after returning to her hotel.
But Klash said that decision ultimately led to her being denied entry to the restaurant. When she got to the door, a manager told her not to eat there, and a security guard ultimately "blocked" her from walking inside, according to her social media posts describing the ordeal.
"I was just refused service at a @Whataburger in Austin, Texas because I was in drag. Manager didn’t want me to enter and security blocked me from entering without citing any company policy. I am a professional artist, NOT A security threat," Klash tweeted early Sunday morning.
(1 of 2) I was just refused service at a @Whataburger in Austin, Texas because I was in drag. Manager didn’t want me to enter and security blocked me from entering without citing any company policy. I am a professional artist, NOT A security threat.— Erika Klash (@ErikaKlash) November 17, 2019
Klash, who was wearing black and white face paint, a large black and white wig and a pair of red, over-the-knee boots, said she was not given a reason for why she couldn't enter. The drag performer told Vice she was asked to "just back off and retreat and to go someplace else."
"The security guard blocked me from entering," Klash told KVUE-TV. "I kind of took a step back because I didn’t want to seem like a threat. And I knew that there were a lot of folks in the establishment and I sort of felt intimidated, outnumbered."
The social media posts describing the alleged incident went viral over the weekend, receiving more than 2,500 likes and dozens of replies from users who shared their outrage. Some pointed out the potential irony in Whataburger's Twitter bio, which says "There's pride in every Whataburger" and includes the hashtag #ProudToServeYou.
"Not cool. Austin should be better than this...and Whataburger should be expecting professionals in all sorts of dress, drag or otherwise," one person commented.
Klash's tweets quickly earned Whataburger's attention too, and the company reached out to apologize on Sunday.
"We apologize you had a bad experience at Whataburger," the company wrote on Twitter. "We love all of our customers & we are investigating the circumstances surrounding this unfortunate incident."
We apologize you had a bad experience at Whataburger.— Whataburger® (@Whataburger) November 17, 2019
We love all of our customers & we are investigating the circumstances surrounding this unfortunate incident.
Please DM us your info,
We would really appreciate an opportunity to speak to you directly so we can address this.
Klash has shared multiple updates since then, saying she was satisfied with the company's investigation and encouraging her followers to avoid simply calling for the company to be "canceled." However, she also shared more about her discomfort in the situation.
"As a queer person, it's also hard to feel safe in those moments," Klash wrote.