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Facing backlash, Norm Langer insists he never asked a gay couple to leave Langer’s Deli

Facing backlash, Norm Langer insists he never asked a gay couple to leave Langer’s Deli
The No. 19 sandwich at Langer's Deli. A customer has accused owner Norm Langer of asking her to leave because she's gay. Langer denies the claim. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Norm Langer says he doesn’t have a problem with gay couples at his Los Angeles deli, but he does have a problem with customers — of any sexual orientation — making out in his dining room.

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Langer, whose father opened the legendary deli best known for its No. 19 pastrami sandwiches, spoke with The Times on Thursday morning, a day after a woman said on Twitter that her friend had been asked to pay and leave after kissing another woman in the restaurant: “The owner said they weren’t respecting that other customers ‘don’t understand,’ ” April Wolfe wrote on the social media platform. “It’s disappointing.”

Langer said his no-making-out policy applies to all couples.

“It’s a family restaurant and I have certain policies,” he said. “I don’t allow making out in the booths because I don’t feel it’s proper. It’s not a nightclub or a cocktail lounge.”

The restaurant also posted a statement on its Twitter account, saying the deli “is open and inclusive of all people” and noting that it employs people “of various races, religions and sexual orientation.

“We have a long-standing policy against anyone from ‘making out’ whether straight or same-sex couples, it does not matter,” the Twitter post read. “I have stopped heterosexual couples from making out, and I would do the same if Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were making out.”

But in a statement Thursday afternoon, Rachel Curry, the woman who wrote the original post, disputed Langer’s version of events and called his treatment of her “blatant discrimination against queer people.”

According to Curry, Langer never mentioned a PDA policy. “He said ‘I can't have this behavior in my restaurant,” Curry wrote. “Coded language to tell us that our queer behavior would not be tolerated in his establishment.”

Langer, who took over the deli after his father died in 2007, is adamant that he never asked the couple to leave.

“The whole thing is absurd,” Langer told The Times. “The two ladies came in around 11:30, they were sitting next to each other and throughout the meal they started snuggling and making out. I walked over to the table and said, ‘Hi, I’m Norm Langer. I’m glad you’re here, but it’s not really a place to make out.”

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“They said are you against the LGBTQ community, and I said, ‘No, I’m not.’ ”

The incident has sparked a #BoycottLangers hashtag on Twitter. In her statement, Curry acknowledged the effect a boycott could have on employees but wrote, “We are calling for a boycott to call Mr. Langer out and put him and his biased behavior on notice.”

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6:48 p.m.: This article was updated with comment from Rachel Curry.

This article was originally published at 10:50 a.m.

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