The death of Danny Evins, the creator and founder of popular store and restaurant Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, died Saturday in Tennessee. While many remember his restaurant, others remember the controversy that he ignited when he issued a policy calling for the discrimination and termination of any non-heterosexual employees at the restaurants.
Evins created the ideas of a restaurant and store combo catering to families and drivers traveling along interstate freeways in the mid-1970s. The thought behind the restaurants was that home cooked meals would appeal to Americans who were beginning to travel more regularly. The restaurants also featured stores that sold home goods items and homemade jams and jellies.
While Evins may be most well known for his 600 restaurants in 42 states, many Americans remember the boycott of his restaurants following a blatantly discriminatory policy against his employees. In January 1991, he issued a directive to all of his restaurants to fire any employee who was openly gay or “whose preferences fail to demonstrate normal heterosexual values.” The policy was not unlawful during that time because there were no laws protecting LGBT employees; however, it was highly controversial.
In early 1991, numerous boycotts and protests erupted against Cracker Barrel. The response from consumers and shareholders was swift against the discrimination policy. The policy was rescinded in March 1991 after the New York City Employees Retirement System led shareholder in arguing against the policy. Evins later apologized. In 2002, shareholders voted to ban any antigay discrimination in its employee policies.
Source: New York Times “Danny Evins, Restaurant Founder and Focus of Controversy, Dies at 76,” Douglas Martin, 11/16/2012