Woman accuses New Jersey restaurant of using racist 'code' during hiring event, manager refutes claims

A restaurant in New Jersey has been accused of discriminatory practices by a woman who claims she went in for an open call hiring event and the manager spoke in “code,” allegedly in order to allude to racist policies. The restaurant has since denied all of the claims, stating the 22-year-old venue has never discriminated against anyone.

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Surf City bar and restaurant in Jersey City was reportedly hosting an open call looking for employees, aspiring actress Maya Murphy wrote on Facebook. The woman shared that she had recently found herself out of work because of the coronavirus pandemic and, as she could "really use a job,” went with some friends to apply at the restaurant.

Murphy, a white woman, wrote that she and her two “white-passing” male friends sat waiting to be interviewed. Eventually, Murphy said she was interviewed by someone she claimed to be the owner, whom she described as a “white man with a hipster scraggly beard.”

However, Surf City manager John Argento told Fox News that the owner “wasn’t even in the building that day” and other employees and management had been conducting the interviews.

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During her job interview, Murphy claims the person conducting it alluded to racist “code.”

“The owner asked me about my resume, particularly my time at a local restaurant that closed last year," Murphy wrote in the post. She then said the interviewer responded by saying, "The demographic shift that happened at [the restaurant], we can't have that here. We have a dress code, we enforce it. We don't serve certain liquors here. Do you get it?"

"I nodded," Murphy wrote. "Sadly, I've worked at restaurants with racist dress codes and auto-gratuities before. He continued[,] ‘I'm speaking in code, do you understand?’”

"Jersey City is one of the most diverse cities in the United States, and I unknowingly walked into an interview at a segregated restaurant."

— Maya Murphy

According to Murphy, who explained further in a later Facebook comment, the interviewer was referring to dress codes that are disguised as an “excuse to not allow in black patrons,” and ban such clothing items as durags, “work boots” and “sports jerseys,” among other apparel. She also said she was “entirely sure [the man] meant Hennessey” when referring to “certain liquors.”

Argento confirmed the dress codes to Fox News — but he said they are enforced for everyone.

“We have collared shirts after a certain hour,” he said. “We enforce that dress code for everyone.”

“It’s a funky beach vibe during the day, and then a more dressed-up feel at night,” he added.

Those on Facebook were outraged by the alleged incident and praised Murphy’s post.

Those on Facebook were outraged by the alleged incident and praised Murphy’s post. (iStock)

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Murphy continued in her post, writing that while she was angry with herself for not reacting at the time, she and her friends have vowed to never eat or work at the restaurant.

“Jersey City is one of the most diverse cities in the United States, and I unknowingly walked into an interview at a segregated restaurant. This week I have shared protest tactics, donated to bail funds, marched in protest, and now been offered an actual deal with the devil. Racism in the restaurant industry is not new, but in this week of all the f---ing weeks a restaurateur saw me and assumed it was safe to share his racist garbage with me,” she wrote in the post.

Murphy did share that her two friends did not have negative experiences while interviewing.

Those on Facebook were outraged by the alleged incident and praised Murphy’s post.

"We serve the community. We have groups of every race, creed and color here.”

— John Argento, Surf City manager

Argento, meanwhile, is refuting all of Murphy’s claims, saying it “boggles [his] mind” that anyone would accuse Surf City of not being diverse.

“We’ve been here 22 years. We’ve never discriminated against anyone when hiring. This woman who was not called back is the only one making these statements,” he alleged.

Argento, who has been managing the restaurant for 22 years, did second Murphy’s words about Jersey City being “the most diverse community in the United States.” This diversity, he said, is felt at every part of the establishment.

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“We serve the community. We have groups of every race, creed and color here,” he said. “We have great food and drink and people want to come and sit on the beach or at the fire pits and look out at the water.”

As far as backlash the restaurant has received, Argento said it has been minimal as of Monday evening, with “almost everybody who has been here [knowing] it’s not true.”

“You can’t behave that way,” Argento said. “It’s not 1940.”

Fox News contacted Maya Murphy for further comment. She has yet to respond.