Restaurant owner asks Texans not to boycott any business after confusion over Beto rally

·3 min read
Madeleine Cook/

A Beto O’Rourke fundraising event in Waxahachie has led to calls for boycotts of the restaurant that hosted it. And another, unrelated restaurant with a similar name.

The owner of that unrelated restaurant in Dallas said she doesn’t want any restaurant to be boycotted.

O’Rourke, the Democrat running for Texas governor, planned an event a Big Al’s Down the Hatch in Waxahachie, a barbecue joint owned by radio personality Big Al Mack.

The event was originally expected to attract a couple hundred people during the day, but quickly grew to thousands, Mack said, leading the O’Rourke campaign to get a permit to close the street and turn it into a sort of block party. He said that, for him, hosting the event was just a part of his business.

“We’re in the business to provide a place for people to eat, drink, have events and whatnot,” Mack said.

But the event has led to calls on social media for boycotts against the restaurant, and not everybody got the name right.

Big Al’s Smokehouse Barbecue in Dallas has been flooded with emails from people saying they’ll be boycotting that store.

Lauran Weiner, owner of Big Al’s Smokehouse Barbecue in Dallas, said the emails about a boycott are coming from people who are confused because both her restaurant and Mack’s share the same name. All the emails include the same message: “Go woke, go broke.”

And that confusion has the potential to do some real damage.

“When you threaten to boycott my Big Al’s, you’re threatening all my employees,” Weiner said. “They count on us. And while this may seem like a little mistake or error by whoever did it, it’s huge for a little business like mine.”

Mack told the Star-Telegram he hopes the event he hosted doesn’t damage Weiner’s business and that people realize the mistake.

He said he doesn’t want to be boycotted but that “if they’re boycotting someone else, they’re boycotting the wrong people.”

“At the end of the day, I’d like for people to know that it was just business and we’re welcoming to anybody who wants to have any event,” Mack said. “ I know people have said negative things about us, but we haven’t said anything negative about anything. And we’ll continue to do that — that’s just not the way we operate.”

Weiner said she doesn’t think any restaurant deserves to be boycotted because of a decision to host an event, especially not one of that size. Her business doesn’t take any political sides, but she said Big Al’s Smokehouse Barbecue would have to say yes to an event like that because it would be good for the business and the employees.

“If someone came to me and said we’re going to have 200 or 600 or a thousand people at your restaurant, I’m going to say yes,” Weiner told the Star-Telegram. “That’s how we support our restaurant and our business. I just don’t understand how other people run their businesses if they say we’re not going to take your money because of who you vote for.”

Weiner said that neither business should face a boycott because of the event and that people should donate to charity instead.

“Please don’t boycott any business, including Big Al’s Down the Hatch Barbecue in Waxahachie,” Weiner said in her Facebook video. “No small business deserves to be boycotted for something like this.”

She encouraged people to donate to the Ronald McDonald House. Her Facebook post included a link to donate that, as of 4 p.m. Thursday, had raised $90 from three people.