The Tuskegee Experiment Westport restaurant removes racially insensitive drink from menu

August 21, 2018

WESTPORT — Local restaurant 323 Main Street has removed a cocktail called “The Tuskegee Experiment” from its menu after a customer complaint.

The drink name refers to the U.S. government’s 40-year medical experiment that left hundreds of African-American men with syphilis untreated, so scientists could study the progression of the disease. The study began in 1932 in collaboration with Tuskegee University, a historically black college in Alabama.

On Aug. 11, New York City resident Leah Bornstein went to 323 to see her friend’s stepfather’s band play and noticed the cocktail named after the experiment.

“I was appalled when I saw it,” said Bornstein, who noted she was at 323 with other people, none of whom had been to the restaurant before. Bornstein said she later spoke with the bartender and called and emailed the owner to have the cocktail removed. By the following Friday, Aug. 17, the Tuskegee cocktail was no longer on the menu.

Two days before, on Aug. 15, Bornstein’s friend Eric Armour posted a photo of 323’s cocktail menu, which included the Tuskegee drink, on Facebook and wrote, “Umm. This is ridiculously horrible.”

According to the photo of the specialty cocktail menu Armour posted, the Tuskegee drink included myers dark rum, malibu pineapple juice, fresh lime, pineapple and jalapeno mash, and a dash of tabasco. Cocktails titled “The Red October,” “Cold War Margarita” and “Capetown Transfusion” were also on the menu.

The owner of 323, which describes itself as “a friendly neighborhood restaurant serving American cuisine,” has not responded to repeated calls for comment.

Emily Clayton, 323’s bar manager, told the Westport News Friday she had never heard of a cocktail called “The Tuskegee Experiment” at the restaurant.

When asked for the specialty cocktail menu, Clayton looked through the bar menus but said the cocktail menu was missing. “It looks like it’s being updated because I don’t see them in any of the books,” Clayton said.

“I had heard someone come in and say something about it but I was confused because we’ve never had a cocktail by that name,” Clayton said in response to the cocktail controversy.

“The Norwalk NAACP condemns 323 Main Restaurant for naming a drink after ‘The Tuskegee Experiment,’ based on facts the Tuskegee syphilis experiment was an infamous, unethical and malicious clinical study conducted between 1932 thru 1972 by the U.S. Public Health Service which was mean and evil. To conduct such an experiment on rural, uneducated African-American men which was the leading cause of death is a travesty of injustice and a lack of human regard. It is a shame that 323 Main Restaurant continued with the same racist mind set in these times,” said Norwalk NAACP President Brenda Penn-Williams.

svaughan@hearstmediact.com; 203-842-2638; @SophieCVaughan1

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