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James Beard committee cancels North Carolina meeting over transgender bathroom bill


Democratic state representative Chris Sgro from North Carolina calls for the repeal of HB2, a law stipulating that transgender people must use the bathroom that correspondents to the sex listed on your birth certificate. (AP File Photo)

The passage of North Carolina’s controversial HB2 bill, which requires transgender people to utilize public restrooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate, has already impacted business in the state.

On Tuesday, the James Beard Foundation joined the growing chorus of detractors, which includes musicians, the NBA and others, pulling out of scheduled visits as a result of the law's passage. 

The foundation’s chefs and restaurants committee was slated to meet in Raleigh in January for one of three annual meetings. Normally, the location of the meetings aren’t made public but the committee now says it won’t be conducting the meeting in the state due to the passage of HB2.

In an e-mailed statement provided to, Phil Vettel, the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Committee Chair and Chicago Tribune’s restaurant critic, argued that the controversial law contradicts the values of the foundation.

“North Carolina's passage of HB2, more formally known as the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, discriminates specifically against the transgendered and reduces civil rights for the entire LGBTQ community,” the statement said.

“The law's provisions are contrary to the values of the James Beard Foundation; accordingly, the Restaurant and Chef Awards Subcommittee has, by unanimous vote, decided to cancel its planned meeting in that state. This meeting had been planned prior to the passage of HB2; we had hoped that the condemnation by the NCAA, the NBA and the many members of North Carolina's restaurant community, would have persuaded North Carolina's leaders to repeal this outrageous law. As it has not, the subcommittee feels compelled to conduct its business elsewhere.”

Vettel did tell the News & Observer that the restaurant would consider scheduling another meeting in the state if the law were to change.  

The James Beard Foundation is best known for its prestigious awards—considered the Academy Awards of the food world-- given to exceptional American chefs, restaurants, beverage industry professionals each year. The committee doesn’t pick winners or finalists but they do help to create the ballot.

Despite the re-location of the meeting site, however, the committee noted that chefs and restaurateurs from North Carolina would still be considered for James Beard Awards in 2017.