The management at Dearborn’s M Cantina are taking heat on social media for calling the police on a customer who refused to pay for food he disliked. Maurice El-Amin was at the modern Mexican restaurant on Tuesday and after taking one bite of his taco order complained to staff about the taste of his food, Metro Times reports. El-Amin, who described the chicken tinga tacos as having a “chemical taste,” requested that his meal be replaced with a new order and was told he would have to pay for the tacos. He refused and police were called to intervene in the dispute.
The restaurant management allege in statements to the Detroit Free Press that El-Amin, an assistant principal at Cass Tech in Detroit, walked out of the restaurant without paying, but walked back inside when he was informed that the restaurant was calling the cops. According to El-Amin, he got up from the table, but then returned and waited until police arrived.
The remainder of the incident was captured by El-Amin on Facebook Live; the video has been viewed more than 20,000 times. In it, police come over to speak with El-Amin who recounts his interaction with the restaurant’s manager Heidi Merino. Merino believed he disliked the tacos because they were made with chipotle, but El-Amin disagreed and says he is familiar with chipotle and that wasn’t his issue with the dish. “I go to restaurants frequently, and usually when that happens the waiter will offer me to replace it with something different,” El-Amin tells the police.
In his conversation with the two Dearborn officers, they explain that it’s up to the restaurant to determine the policy for replacing or comping meals, but that refusing to pay for his meal falls under a state law involving defrauding an innkeeper. As the police interpret the law, customers are required to pay for food that they order whether they like the food or not. El-Amin eventually settled the $9.54 bill.
Do not go to M Cantina in Dearborn!!! Www.mcatina.com The wife of the chef Called the police on me! Heidi MerinoPosted by Maurice El-Amin on Tuesday, September 18, 2018
The issue has raised questions about whether it was necessary to call police to resolve the incident and whether authorities would have been called to intervene had El-Amin not been black. The restaurant’s online reviews have taken a hit in the aftermath of the incident. More than a dozen one-star reviews have appeared on M Cantina’s Google business page referencing El-Amin’s experience. A dozen more have also appeared on the restaurant’s Yelp page.
Chef Junior Merino, who was not directly involved in the incident, tells the Metro Times that employees were merely enforcing restaurant policy. In a later statement to the Detroit Free Press, the chef expressed regret over the handling of the incident.