Holocaust denier David Irving slithered into Atlanta on Thursday, July 20, for a stop on his summer speaking tour, “David Irving Looks Back: My Fifty Years Defending Real History Against Its Enemies. An Evening With the Historian.”
He charged $49.01 for the privilege of dining with him, buying his books and hearing his claim that the slaughter of 6 million Jews by the Nazis is just a big hoax. The disgraced Englishman, 79, gained fresh infamy last year with the film “Denial,” which depicted his failed libel lawsuit against Emory University historian Deborah Lipstadt.
Still, a dozen people were full of enough hate or ignorance to join him July 20 at Antica Posta, where the group took advantage of a private dining space in the wine cellar to unleash anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia and other forms of hate, complete with a range of slurs, according to the young black woman who first had the misfortune of serving them.
Shelley Sidney didn’t know who Irving was as she took the orders from the gang of 13, but she got a clear message when the last man to order, smirking, handed her a menu with a swastika scrawled on it.
Her story of that dinner, the group’s outrages and, in her view, the indifferent response of her boss, restaurant owner Marco Betti, spread on Facebook, resulting in declarations from many people that they would never eat at Antica Posta.
Betti was bombarded with angry phone and email messages and more than a few threats for failing to immediately remove Irving and his friends.
In an editorial posted online, the AJT called for Betti not only to apologize for a sluggish response, but also to make a donation to a nonprofit agency involved in Holocaust education.
Fortunately, Betti got good counsel from friends in the Jewish community. He told us his version of what happened — not to make excuses, it must be noted, but to offer the context for a sincere apology.
Betti, who has been in business in Buckhead for 18 years and is himself an immigrant (one of the groups reportedly smeared by the Irving group), said he was unprepared for the situation. He has handled drunks and people abusive to his staff, but not customers holding offensive conversations in a space isolated from the main dining room.
In a departure from Sidney’s version, Betti said that as soon as he understood the situation, he brought Irving and friends their check and told them, peacefully but forcefully, it was time for them to go.
“I know I could have handled the situation better,” Betti said.
As we had hoped, he did more than apologize.
He made a donation to the Anti-Defamation League equal to the Irving group’s check, $634, and asked the ADL for upstander training on how to respond if he faces a similar situation again. At the AJT’s suggestion, he made an equal donation to the Breman Museum to support the kind of Holocaust education that disarms Irving and his vile ilk.
Betti has done as much as possible as quickly as could have been asked of someone who had no reason to know who was walking into his restaurant that night. He has earned a chance at forgiveness.
Marco Betti’s Statement
To our dear friends and patrons,
I am writing to respond to the events of Thursday evening (7/20/17) as reported to the media by one of our wait staff.
On Thursday, July 20 my restaurant accepted a reservation for a private party of approximately 13 people in the name David Irving. The party was held in our private dining room in the wine cellar. Prior to Thursday, I was not familiar with anyone named David Irving nor did I know what offensive viewpoints he stood for.
As a first generation immigrant, I do not condone bigotry or intolerance. As a restaurateur, the safety of our staff and our patrons is of utmost importance.
When my waitress told me about the swastika scribbled on the menu, I immediately began investigating. The restaurant was very busy and short-staffed that night, and the situation was fluid and evolving. When all the facts became clear to me, I took action and the group was out of the restaurant shortly thereafter.
As a small business owner, I take great pride in my work and am very proud to be part of the Atlanta business community. I have been in Buckhead for 18 years and have never experienced anything like this. Anyone that has ever dined at Antica Posta knows that I have a diverse staff that is friendly and committed to our patrons.
When I determined what had happened and the details of the situation, I acted quickly and decisively in a peaceful and professional manner to remove these individuals without causing any further escalation.
However, I know I could have handled the situation better. To be better educated on these matters, I have contacted the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to ask for help in training me and my staff so that we are better prepared to handle and prevent any form of bigotry and intolerance from entering Antica Posta.
Further, I have donated all the proceeds paid to Antica Posta from these individuals to the ADL to further help its important mission of tolerance and social justice.
In retrospect, I learned a very valuable lesson and have taken steps to better educate myself and my staff.
Antica Posta Restaurant