Nationwide protests against strict abortion laws like he one recently passed in Alabama are planned for Tuesday, and a DC restaurant is finding its own way to speak out. Himitsu owners Kevin Tien and Carlie Steiner are organizing a “pro-choice pop-up” on the patio of their popular Petworth restaurant, serving fried chicken sandwiches from Tien’s Ballston restaurant, Hot Lola’s. They’ll donate 100 percent of proceeds to three local and national organizations that support reproductive care and rights. The fundraiser runs today through Thursday from 5:30 to 8:30 PM, or whenever the food runs out.
“There are two aways you can run a business,” says Steiner. “You can stay as inactive as possible so you don’t do anything that could jeopardize your business. Or you can realize you have a responsibility and a voice to use for the betterment of society. After the announcement of the abortion ban, it’s a very scary time to be a woman. To act and put money behind it is one of the most important things you can do right now.”
Tien and Steiner says they consulted their staff members about which organizations to assist, including the National Network of Abortion Funds, which has reportedly raised over $504,000 since Alabama passed the nation’s strictest abortion law last week. The Yellowhammer Fund, which helps those seeking care at Alabama’s three clinics, and Atlanta-based ARC-Southeast are also beneficiaries.
The duo aren’t strangers to culinary advocacy. Steiner recently introduced a bar and wine program at Himitsu that wholly supports female producers and owners, while Tien’s mission at Hot Lola’s is what he calls “chicken for a cause.” The fast-casual sandwich shop debuted in the Quarter Market food hall with a four percent “wellness provision” surcharge to help provide health care and fair wages for restaurant staff—a trend Tien hopes to spread in the industry. “Hot Lola’s was always meant to help in the moment and do whatever we can,” says Tien.
Himitsu hosted a Planned Parenthood fundraiser in the past and got a few nasty Yelp reviews as a result. But it’s not enough to stop the team from slinging sandwiches for a cause.
“Its been a big conversation with a lot of restaurants lately. We all want to help but we still have a business to mange, and it’s a fine line to draw,” says Tien. “At this point for me, I would rather be very upfront about who we are as a restaurant, as a staff, our core values, and what we support. At the end of the day, we’ll support equal rights, rights to your body, and human rights in general.”
The pop-up’s fried chicken sandwiches will go for $10 alongside $2 sodas. Additionally, Himitsu will run a soft-shell crab sandwich special in the dining room with sales benefitting the organizations.