Protesters hold nurse-in outside West Asheville Denny’s

About 25 protesters, including several breast-feeding mothers and chanting supporters, held a Feb. 22 nurse-in outside the Denny’s restaurant off Patton Avenue in West Asheville.

Breast is best: About 25 protesters stood outside the Denny’s restaurant off Patton Avenue in support of Crystal Everitt, a nursing mother who was asked by the manager to cover up while breast-feeding her son inside the restaurant. A Denny’s official apologized to Everitt, but she didn’t accept it. Photo by Anne Fitten Glenn

Outside the restaurant, a Denny’s official apologized to organizer Crystal Everitt regarding an incident two weeks ago that sparked the protest, but Everitt said his statement wasn’t enough.

Everitt says she was breast-feeding her 1-year-old son in the restaurant when the manager asked her to cover herself or move to the bathroom. Everitt says she declined, citing state law, which protects the rights of mothers to breast-feed in any public or private location.

Rick Pate, regional director of operations for the Asheville Denny’s franchise, said the business’s “responsibility as a family restaurant is to provide a nonoffensive environment for all of our valued guests. Obviously, if any behavior or any practice that happened two weeks ago while she was in the restaurant—specifically us asking her to cover up—offended her in any way, we’re sincerely sorry for that. We apologize for that.”

Pate continued, “My goal today was to come out and speak to everyone that was here to protest, with a desire to have them come in my restaurant and have lunch with us today.” Breast-feeding mothers, he added, are always welcome.

But Everitt said Pate’s statement, which matches one she received from Denny’s corporate office, wasn’t good enough, because it leaves it up to each restaurant’s discretion to determine what is nonoffensive.

“They’re putting in a discretion clause, and they might as well not have a policy at all,” said Everitt, standing outside the restaurant and nursing her child. “Who is it that determines if I’m being discreet or not? ‘Discreet’ should not even be in there.”

“Their policy is not in line with the law, so it’s absolutely not OK,” she continued. “They need to guarantee that moms will not be harassed.”

Standing along Regent Drive off Patton Avenue in a bracing wind, the protesters held signs proclaiming “Breast-feeding is not shameful” and chanted, “Breast-feeding’s not a crime. Why won’t you let babies dine?”

To see a photo gallery and video clips of the nurse-in, go to www.mountainx.com.

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