BY BRADEN CARTWRIGHT
Daily Post Staff Writer
Lumi Gardner, the owner of Fuki Sushi, was the victim of a racist tirade from one of her customers, who screamed at her to go back to her country and that she was un-American after the restaurant didn’t accept his cash payment.
The outburst started in the dining room on Sunday (Aug. 1) evening and carried over into the parking lot, in earshot of other customers and employees.
The customer started yelling at his server after she told him the restaurant was only accepting contactless payments and then turned his rage to Gardner.
“He was screaming at the top of his lungs, the worst things you could say to another human being,” Gardner said.
After trying to leave without paying, he eventually paid with cash. She followed him to the parking lot to make sure he didn’t damage any property, and he drove uncomfortably close to her, continuing to yell and threatening to sue, Gardner said.
She declined to give a description of the man, his date or his car — except to the police — because she said she fears retaliation. The Palo Alto Police Department has not responded to a request for his description, or questions about how they will investigate the incident.
Gardner explained that she switched to cashless payment during the pandemic to make it more efficient for her employees.
After the incident, Menlo Park Councilman Ray Mueller and Palo Alto Vice Mayor Pat Burt visited the restaurant to hear from Gardner.
‘A reflection of our times’
“We both talked about how it was such a striking contrast to the Palo Alto that both of us have lived in for most of our lives,” Burt said. “It’s not a reflection of our community, but it is a reflection of our times.”
After Burt and Mueller asked for her, Gardner said she was first scared, then relieved.
“I went from feeling like this guy is going to get away with this, and he is going to feel justified in his actions and that he did nothing wrong. That makes you feel worthless. That makes you feel powerless,” she said. “When they came by and spoke to me, I didn’t feel like that anymore.”
Gardner says she came forward to be a voice for her mother, her children and her team of employees.
Gardner grew up in Palo Alto and is a third generation restaurateur. Her mother started Fuki Sushi in 1978, and her daughter works there now.
The restaurant, 4119 El Camino Real, is a popular place for celebrating in the neighborhood.
After many media reports during the pandemic of Asian Americans being subject to racist attacks, both verbal and physical, the California Attorney General published a report that found that hate crimes against Asians rose by 107% in 2020.
Palo Alto has seen a few verbal attacks on its Asian American residents, and the city has responded by hosting events reaffirming its support for Asian American and Pacific Islander residents.