Ohio Restaurant Owner Says Business Is Booming After Church Discount Drama

Posted at 3:37 PM, Jul 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-22 15:37:05-04

CHEVIOT, Oh. (WLWT) – A Cheviot restaurant owner is getting national attention after he offered a discount to people who brought in church bulletins on Sundays.

It became an issue when some started complaining it was discrimination against people who aren’t religious.

Since we first talked with the business owner, the discount advertisement has changed.

The discount has since been tweaked, opening it up to basically everyone.

The owner’s attorney said the owner is well within his rights to keep offering it.

Inside Starters Cafe, owner Justin Watson said it’s been about two months since the grand opening.

He never imagined a 10 percent church bulletin discount would spur an upset reaction from some people.

"My whole process behind it was to get butts in the seats, and, you know, one way or another, I guess, mission accomplished," Watson said.

WLWT talked with Watson on Wednesday after angry comments popped up online and said he was discriminating against the non-religious.

Someone shared a form letter from the Freedom from Religion Foundation telling patrons to alert restaurant owners "to the illegality of the practice."

Watson has since changed the discount to include civic newsletters and nonprofit newsletters, too.

Watson’s attorney said they’ve received some complaints, but also a lot of positive feedback from the community.

"We’ve reviewed his procedures and we’ve reviewed his ad and at the end of the day, he’s not discriminating. He’s offering anyone that wants to come in, a discount," attorney Jason Phillabaum said.

Watson said the goal was to draw in business from the countless groups at churches nearby.

He said publicity here at home, and even with national outlets, like FOX News and Newsweek has helped a lot.

"Numbers are up this week by quite a bit and we’re not complaining. That’s for sure," he said.

Watson’s next goal is to win over people with a meal.

"It was never my intent to ever offend anybody whatsoever. All I want to do is try and get you in the door and let my food speak for itself," he said.

Watson said the discount is on for Sundays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

He even plans to have extra bulletins and newsletters laying around so anyone can pick one up.

Watson’s attorney also said the attention from the complaints has drawn a lot of positive feedback from other businesses who want to work together to raise money for charities.