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Steakhouse orders cancer patient to remove hat

Posted at 5:16 PM, Dec 17, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-17 17:16:17-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn (WSMV) — A company Christmas party at one of the best-known steakhouses in Nashville left a bad taste in some customers’ mouths, and the fallout has a lot of people talking on social media.

When a customer’s Yelp review told the story of her husband’s boss, a cancer patient, who encountered problems just by putting on a hat to stay warm, the post went viral and now the restaurant promises to make it right.

Robert Chambers owns The Coin Vault in Franklin and took his employees to dinner at Morton’s The Steakhouse in downtown Nashville.

Chambers is also battling cancer, and one of his employees wrote in a Facebook post that toward the end of their meal, Chambers “put on a beanie to cover his head because he was getting chilled – one of the many side effects of his treatment.”

Witnesses say Chambers was asked to take off his hat inside the restaurant, which he did, but others quickly came to his defense for needing to wear the hat.

The employee goes on to write, “after getting a manager, the waitress came back and said she would need to see a doctor’s note before he could resume wearing the hat.”

Chambers declined an interview but wrote in an email that, “All could have been avoided with a simple ‘I’m sorry to hear of your situation. What can we do to help?'”

On Facebook, Chambers spoke to the bigger issue:

“I would like to ask that the outcome of this situation simply be empathy toward others,” he wrote. “I have been in treatment for 10 months fighting for my life. I don’t need or want another battle. My family and friends are highly protective of me because of this situation. I would like something positive to come from this. Perhaps, Morton’s could examine their policies so that no one else would have this occur.”

The restaurant responded Monday to the wave of criticism. Tim Whitlock, senior vice president of operations and chief operating officer for Morton’s The Steakhouse, wrote in a statement:

“Our executive team has been in contact with Mr. Chambers who fully accepted our apology. There was a complete and total misunderstanding by our staff who had no idea that our guest had a medical condition. Our actions were uninformed and our intentions were not malicious. As a sign of our sincere apology and commitment to the community, we are donating on behalf of Mr. Chambers, $2,000.00 to the St. Jude’s Hospital. In addition, Morton’s The Steakhouse will also partner with Mr. Chambers to underwrite a cancer fundraiser.

“At Morton’s The Steakhouse, superior customer service is our first priority. We appreciate the patronage of our loyal guests and look forward to continuing to serve the Nashville community. We embrace our role as an iconic location where generations come to share special moments and memories.”

Despite the response from the restaurant, some customers wrote follow-up reviews that they plan to take their business elsewhere, and others even hinted at the possibility of a protest.