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The co-owner of The Fish Market in Clinton continued to offer apologies Wednesday for her husband’s actions following an incident at the restaurant that some people claim was racially motivated.
Sherry Giovannoni said her husband Rick isn’t part of the business currently and seeking treatment for mental health issues.
She emphasized her husband doesn’t “have a filter and at times can be insensitive” in reference to his conservative political views, but has no “racist” sentiments and values.
“We are sorry for the hurt and pain people feel from this incident,” Sherry Giovannoni said while speaking on behalf of her husband. “We definitely want to remain someplace for the people to be a part of it.”
Protests have been held outside the restaurant for about a month after a June 26 incident when Black customer Daryl Rollins wore an “I can’t breathe” T-shirt and Rick Giovannoni told Rollins he couldn’t wear it inside the restaurant. The incident has been characterized as a “misunderstanding.”
However, Black patrons and residents viewed the incidents as “the straw the broke the camel’s back” in a history of alleged racial and insensitive remarks by Rick Giovannoni.
Some demonstrators, who caused the store to shut its doors for about a month, also wore T-shirts bearing the words “I can’t breathe.” The phrase has become a rallying cry for Blacks protesting police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd, who said those words repeatedly to Minneapolis police before his May 25 death as an officer knelt on his neck.
Meanwhile, Sherry Giovanni there remains no timetable on when The Fish Market will reopen. Although a meeting took place with a few community leaders last month, there hasn’t been another scheduled since.
Ashley Hunter, a shift manager and one of 48 employees at The Fish Market, offered her support for the business.
Hunter, an 11-year employee, said “absolutely not” to whether she had ever heard racial or inappropriate comments from Rick Giovannoni.
She said rumors aren’t true about him using the N-word after former President Barack Obama was reelected in 2012. Hunter recalled the incident because she worked that day after the restaurant closed.
“The only comment that Rick made is, ‘I can’t believe he made it back in there,’” Hunter said. “It was coming from the standpoint of a Republican upset that a Democrat got back inside the office. Not that it was about race. He was mad because [he’s] a Republican.”
Hunter also said some protestors have called her racial slurs and other derogatory names while trying to go inside the restaurant. In addition, she said the windows have been boarded because of broken glass consistently on the property.
“It has not been peaceful as people have been trying to say that it is,” said Hunter, who resides in the county. “I’ve been called coons and all kinds of other stuff. I understand the reason why people are upset…and want the best for the community. This is my community. If I felt in any way that the Fish Market or the people on the inside had anything negative or derogatory to say towards the community…why would I be there? It doesn’t make sense.”
Meanwhile, the protests will continue and allegations from Sherry Giovannoni about some protesters verbally harassing employees and patron upset those such as Rachel Sherman, who owns property in Clinton and resides in neighboring Charles County.
“Sherry [told] a bald-faced lie to say that any of the protesters or organizers have subjected any employees or patrons to any type of violence or name-calling because we don’t stand for that,” she said. “When we put this protest together, the very first thing I said this is a peaceful protest and if you aren’t coming to be peaceful, don’t come at all. Sherry decided to close the business down because she got no business.”
As protests continue, Sherman said the next step will be collecting signatures and submit them to the county’s Board of License Commissioners or liquor control board. That’s because Sherry Giovannoni posted an apology on Facebook a few days after the incident and attributed her husband’s behavior to “drinking heavily.”
“We now have documented proof that the [co-owner] has mental health issues who continues to drink at this establishment to the point he can’t service the community in a proper way,” Sherman said. “It screams irresponsibility. We believe the Prince George’s County liquor board needs to revoke [The Fish Market’s] license. This is not a business that is responsible enough to sell alcohol to the community.”