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Big Sky Cafe in SLO to participate in nationwide ‘Day Without Immigrants’

Big Sky Cafe in downtown San Luis Obispo will close its doors Thursday in honor of the “Day Without Immigrants” national protest against policies of the Donald Trump administration.
Big Sky Cafe in downtown San Luis Obispo will close its doors Thursday in honor of the “Day Without Immigrants” national protest against policies of the Donald Trump administration. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

At least one restaurant in downtown San Luis Obispo is voluntarily closing its doors for the day, its owner says, to support its majority immigrant staff as part of “A Day Without Immigrants” actions planned in cities across the country.

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Organizers are telling immigrants to miss class, miss work and not shop on Thursday as a way to show the country how important they are to America’s economy and way of life.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” Greg Holt, co-owner of Big Sky Cafe, said Wednesday night, about two hours after he first heard of the national protest.

Holt, who said he started out washing dishes in a Mexican restaurant in the 1970s, has spent his career in the restaurant industry working mostly with colleagues and employees who were born outside the U.S.

“They’re good people, great people who really care and work hard,” said Holt, who added that about 70 percent of his employees are immigrants. Those employees are “scared to death,” Holt said, because of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail and actions so far in office.

Despite the predicted rain, Big Sky Cafe is closing on a potentially busy Thursday with Farmers Market down the block. Asked if he was concerned about the loss of business, Holt said he certainly was, but he wanted to stand in solidarity with his staff who are also making a financial sacrifice.

The protest comes in response to President Trump and his 1-month-old administration. The Republican president has pledged to increase deportation of immigrants living in the country illegally, build a wall along the Mexican border, and ban people from certain majority-Muslim countries from coming into the U.S. He also has blamed high unemployment on immigration.

Employers and institutions in some cities were already expressing solidarity Wednesday with immigrant workers.

Many people who make the choice to skip work Thursday will not be paid in their absence, but social media posts encouraging participation stressed that the cause is worth the sacrifice.

About 100 Paso Robles High School students held a demonstration at the edge of campus during their lunch break Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, as part of a nationwide “Day Without Immigrants” protest.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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