Over the Memorial Day weekend in north-central West Virginia, a lot of skin was on display in one restaurant. But it might not be the skin you’re thinking about.
Walk into the Atomic Grill, a new locally-owned barbeque restaurant in Morgantown, and you might be served by wait staff with purple-hair, nose-piercings, or tattoos. The cook might have a blue Mohawk. Co-owner Dan McCawley says it’s a piercing and tattoo-friendly workplace that serves "new American soul food."
“It was maybe two years ago and we were barbequing brisket in the back yard and having a beer and we said, ‘Man, we should do this for real,’” McCawley said. “Our initial idea was Punk Rock Barbeque… it’s been fun.”
Maybe it’s his anti-establishment, punk-rock background; maybe it was growing up with five sisters; maybe it was the fact that he has a daughter to worry about; but, when a customer filled out an online comment card suggesting his wait staff “show more skin,” the Atomic Grill responded:
We love to get comments from our customers.
If you like what we did, we’re happy to hear about it. If you’re unhappy about anything at the Atomic Grill in Morgantown, WV, we also want to hear about it, so we can improve.
Recently, though, we got a comment, on-line, from a customer saying they thought our wait staff should “…show more skin.” After considering the comment we decided that, as a family restaurant, the only skin we were comfortable having our staff show more of… was our potato skins.
So, we’re having a very special “Special.” During the event we’re featuring our Potato Skins Appetizer and donating the proceeds from the sale of them to the West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services (WV-FRIS). We’ll also have information available from WV-FRIS (www.fris.org) if you’d like to ask about it.
We just want to keep our customers happy.
“The objectification of women is just offensive,” McCawley said. “I don’t think it should be something that should be tolerated. I don’t think service needs to be about showing more skin. I think it should be about hospitality and about good food.”
And in this case the food is the common appetizer, potato skins. During the Memorial Day weekend, workers pushed the skins to raise awareness about rape prevention. And word spread quickly. Support has poured in from all over the state, the country, and even the world.
Proceeds from the popular potato plate went to the West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information & Services (WV FRIS). Sam Wilmoth and others from non-profit organization were hanging out at the restaurant all weekend, passing out information, ready to talk or answer questions about sexual assault.
In West Virginia, according to FRIS:
- 86 percent of victims of sexual assault are female and
- 65 percent are younger than 18.
- 95 percent of offenders are male.
- Most offenses happen in the home of either the victim or the offender.
There are laws in place to try to combat the prevalence of these crimes, shelters throughout the state provide free services to help sexual assault survivors in both the short term and long term, but Wilmoth said we need to do more to take personal responsibility in our communities.
Wilmoth also said that he wishes the Atomic Grill Potato Skins event was less noteworthy. His hope is that events like these inspire people to actively sit and make their values known.
“If we had those conversations on the regular,” Wilmoth said, “then we could make a pretty big dent in this issue because we know that sexual violence is all about repeat perpetration—it’s a tiny group of people doing it over and over and over again. And that means that there’s this huge majority of people who could help if we just convinced them that merely being non-violent, by itself, is not enough.”