A cover band was playing the Clash's early '80s hit "Should I Stay or Should I Go" on Saturday night at Sambuca 360 in Plano. The irony was not lost on Johnny Wimbrey, who says that after he and his wife Crystal Wimbrey declined to give up their table to "a regular," a manager ordered them to leave.
"Because I don't like you," the manager responded.
The manager, who is white, told them they were trespassing and called the police. Wimbrey and his wife, who are black, spent the next few minutes filming his experience as he decided if he should leave or risk going to jail.
In an interview with GuideLive, Wimbrey says the experience was reminiscent of the two black men who were recently arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia. Towards the end of the video, with the Clash song playing in the background, Wimbrey looks at the camera and asks anyone watching: "Should I stay or should I go?"
They decided to go. After he went outside and crossed the street, Wimbrey says he saw a cop car pull up to Sambuca 360 and officers went into the building.
Managers at Sambuca, which is located in the Shops at Legacy, did not respond to several requests for comment, but the restaurant gave WFAA a statement that says the manager was "indefinitely suspended without pay" while Sambuca owner Kim Forsythe looks into it.
Forsythe says in his statement that the Wimbreys sat down at an empty table after telling the hostess they planned on sitting at the bar.
Wimbrey says the table was his, fair and square. "We noticed that there were reserved seats and my wife found a table that wasn't reserved. It was only 30 percent capacity," he says.
Wimbrey, 43, is a motivational speaker, TV personality and author of From the Hood to Doing Good. He lives in Southlake and says he has been to Sambuca before.
"I have actually rented out Sambuca 360 at least three times to host after parties for leadership groups," he says. "I was in such a good mood and just wanted to hear some music."
He says they entered the restaurant at 9:30 p.m. After they sat down at a table, a server brought them drinks and they started watching the band. A half-hour later, they were ready to order another round and also asked their server for a food menu.
"Everything was cool and then that guy came over," Wimbrey says, speaking of the manager.
"He said they had a regular who wanted those seats," Wimbrey continues. "He asked us if we would be willing to give up the seats if he covered our drinks. I respectfully declined. It's not like we had just gotten there."
Wimbrey says the employee responded by giving him a look he describes as "a death stare" and walked away to talk to the customer who wanted the seats. He soon started recording the 10-minute video seen on Facebook.
David Tilley, public information officer from the Plano Police Department, confirmed that a 911 call was received from Sambuca 360 at 10:11 p.m. on Saturday. "We responded to a disturbance," Tilley says. "We were told there was a patron who was refusing to leave and refusing to pay his tab."
Officers arrived on the scene four minutes later, after Wimbrey paid his tab and left.
"There was no way I was walking out of there without paying my bill," Wimbrey says. He says it was unclear whether his drinks were still covered.
Wimbrey believes the incident was racially motivated.
"This guy knew nothing about me, but he doesn't like me," Wimbrey says. "What don't you like about me? That I'm black? He couldn't stand the fact that a black guy turned down two drinks to move his table."
In Forsythe's statement, she says she doesn't blame racism. "After speaking with numerous employees and other guests who observed the incident, I have confirmed that, while the manager lost his composure and failed to deliver the quality of service that guests expect from 360, no racial statements were made by any 360 employees and race played absolutely no role in this incident."
The video has been viewed more than 60,000 times, Facebook says. Some people have turned to Yelp to complain, and on Sambuca 360's Yelp page, an alert at the top says, "This business is being monitored by Yelp's Support team for content related to media reports."
"I'm getting a lot of love from people who know me around the world," Wimbrey says. "I'm used to that audience. But perfect strangers that don't even know I exist are rallying against this restaurant. That's telling me that there is so much pain and discrimination out there."
He started using the hashtag #keepcalmandlive.
"I want minority men to understand that there is a rule to staying alive, and that's keeping calm. It's sad, but I went home that night because I kept my calm. If you keep calm you are going to live," he says.
He plans to address the incident as a motivational speaker.
"I have to turn this mess into a message or I'm a hypocrite," Wimbrey says. "I always teach people that you have to breakthrough adversity."