Treats Family Restaurant in Lonsdale, Minnesota, is an ordinary roadside eatery that — as advertised — is intended as a place to take the family out for Americana and ice cream.
As of 19 September 2016, its sign still advertises its menu, but with an incongruous phrase amid the list of food and drink:
FOOD ICE CREAM
CB FRY, POP 5.99 11-4
MUSLIMS GET OUT
OPEN ALL YEAR M-SAT
The restaurant’s owner, Dan Ruedinger, was unapologetic about his sign, telling local reporters that he was simply exercising his right to free speech:
I’ve had enough and I’m standing up….
With all the bombs and shootings we’ve had, we’re supposed to welcome refugees here who want to kill us? This has nothing to do with race, it has to do with a religion of hatred that preaches violence.
Some Muslims are good people and want a better life. They need to step up, take control and hold the others accountable.
He added later that he wanted to spell out “Muslim extremists” on the sign, but ran out of letters. Ruedinger’s sign went up a few days after a man stabbed and injured eight people at a St. Cloud mall on 17 September 2016, before he was shot and killed by police. (Law enforcement is still investigating possible ties to extremist groups.)
Ruedinger said that the attention has brought in so many more customers that he had to bring in three more people than usual to handle the workload. Meanwhile, protesters assembled on the corner outside the restaurant, carrying signs that condemned the restaurant’s language:
Mayor Tim Rud told the Lonsdale News Review following the incident, “Certainly and in no way does the city condone discrimination.”
“I get it, it’s his right to say what he wants to say,” Payten Estepp, who was protesting the sign, told WCCO-TV. “But that’s giving Lonsdale a bad rap to everyone that drives by on 19, which is a very busy road, so people are going to see that and they’re going to think Lonsdale as a whole, as a community, is as crass as that sign.”
The restaurant was vandalized on 20 September 2016, when somebody smashed a window and left a note:
When Ruedinger arrived Tuesday to get ready to open, police were outside responding to a call about vandalism. He said three soda bottles were thrown and had busted a window. Left at the scene was “a hate note,” he said. Police have not yet responded to requests for further details about the incident.
Despite this (or perhaps because of it) Ruedinger said that his sign will remain.