On the Pickle Barrel brouhaha

by Jay Stevens

The big issue swirling around campus is the University student government – ASUM – has banned the Pickle Barrel from using Griz cards to pay for meals over an incident where a Saudi exchange student was denied service at the store. The store manager, Ryan Dutton, claimed he had gotten into a late-night drunken altercation with the student, Abdulaziz Aljama, and refused to serve him. The owner backed him up, saying the store has the right to refuse service to anyone. Aljama felt it was his skin color that got him booted. ASUM agreed and created the controversy. Missoula police investigated and found no evidence of discrimination. Mayor Engen is now leading a review of the case because of its sensitivity.

The only thing that’s clear is that there’s no definitive conclusion that can be taken away from the incident. Considering Dutton was probably intoxicated at the time of his original altercation, it’s altogether possible he confused Aljama with someone else. It’s also likely that Aljama felt that his skin color was used as the basis of Dutton’s claim.

What is clear is that the reaction to the incident was overblown. ASUM was way to hasty in its condemnation of the store. But then ASUM’s action is more than offset by stuff like this:

I didn’t think the admission of Saudi exchange students to the University of Montana would pass without an incident of some kind, but one would think Abdulaziz Aljama could perhaps find a better target than The Pickle Barrel, though for Saudi’s I suppose we should be grateful they chose The Pickle Barrel rather than the Sears Tower.

It’s paranoid fantasies about Saudi operatives “disguised” as students that make a strong statement against discrimination necessary.

Still, I think our mayor is doing the right thing by reviewing the case. It’s a tense situation, and everyone involved deserves the scrutiny the case is going to receive. I suspect the mayor won’t find that racism was the driving force behind the incident; I hope when he does, that ASUM backs down from its stance. (What is it doing battling off-campus issues anyway?) As for the other folks…well…bigotry is pretty deep-rooted. Not much you can do for them.

  1. Widowmaker

    Nothing like a restaurant to bring a town, a city, and a state together to fight against racial injustice. The injustice of course being the hateful discrimination against a white owned restaurant.

    I’m sure, if the person refused service was a white Christian, the mayor wouldn’t be looking into it. And that the University wouldn’t have removed the U-Money from the store. I guess I’m not the right religion or the right color to cause a bru-ha for being a jerk while drunk.

    I’m curious if the truth will ever come out. One thing we do know, is Pickle Barrel’s sales have greatly gone up. As you can find in the Montana Kaimin arictle here http://www.montanakaimin.com/index.php/news/news_article/still_a_barrel_of_business_for_eatery/

    They have even run out of food. Not because people are glad that some “olive” skinned guy was refused service. That they will stand behind a restaurant that feels they are being bullied by political correctness and liberal guilt. I for one try to eat there about once a day (before this I ate there once every 2 years). I have to wait over an hour every meal because the lines have been out of the door since I started. It is well worth it though.

    I do know, that I laugh, shake hands, and have a great time every meal I can at the Pickle Barrel. The owner stood behind his employee and wasn’t quilted into doing something wrong. People are driving from the far ends of the state. Just a few days ago I met people that drove up from Billings just to eat. I am grateful for the time and money people are spending to fight against this injustice. But, the free market will win. I imagine Pickle Barrel will be here for a long time to come.

  2. Widowmaker

    Maybe ASUM should look into the story last week of the two marines in uniform kicked out because Target thought they were recruiting. They weren’t even recruiting. Two combat vets kicked out because they were in uniform! Oh shoot, I don’t think those guys skin colors are dark enough for people to care.


  3. To be fair to ASUM, neither of the Marines were UM students, and the incident happened in Virginia.

    As for the Pickel Barrel brouhaha, I see no evidence that Dutton got the right guy. If he did, there’d be no controversey. And, to be fair once again to ASUM (not that they deserve fair play), it’s not likely a white Christian would assume a case of his mistaken identity here in Montana would be primarily due to his skin color.

    Of course, that’s a strawman argument, because this isn’t about a white Christian student, and we don’t know how ASUM or the mayor would necessarily react to discrimination against a white Christian student, were such discrimination actually to occur.

    It’s a shame, IMHO, that people are rushing to the Pickel Barrel’s defense without knowing the whole story. They’re assuming ASUM is wrong — they might very well be — but they also might be rewarding a eatery that condones racism. Who’s to say?

  4. Wow. This whole thing is asinine. Mike’s comment really takes the cake, though. Isn’t that something people write when satirizing anti-Arab bigotry?

  5. I’m still trying to figure out why anyone would drive from Billings to Missoula to eat at Pickle Barrel . . . . . There’s a Pickle Barrel in Billings.

    Just one more story that’s been blown WAAAAAAAAAAAY out of proportion.

  6. Kevin

    Any self-respecting American would never be seen in a place that served Muslims. And who cares if some of the pimple-faced pinheaded liberal students from the UM boycott the place? Maybe the sandwiches will be the same, but the atmosphere will sure improve.

  7. Man, Kevin, that’s the best satire of a right-wing bedwetter I’ve ever seen! Nicely done.

  8. Kevin

    Glad you enjoyed it! As you said in another post, “subtle racism” is pervasive in our society. So who needs more of that? I mean, subtleties are for sophists, right? It’s about time we got into some really blatant racism that plain folks can enjoy, such as this piece in today’s Toronto Star: “Racial slur on sofa label stuns family”


    That story might be satire, though. Hard to tell. I leave it up to your discerning eye to discover the truth.

  9. Oh, man, that’s…that’s…er…I see what you mean about not being able to tell if it’s satire or not…

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