There could finally be an end to the Yelp review war saga between Bac Nguyen, owner of Cleveland’s Ninja City Asian-fusion restaurant, and customer Ruchu Tan. After leaving a one-star review, Bac Nguyen hunted Ruchu Tan down via Facebook and proceeded to send Tan malicious and racist messages directed towards his Indian friends. He later apologized according to Ruchu Tan, but Nguyen and his team continued to taunt Tan through social media, including using his full name as a hashtag on their posts and calling him a “fraud boi.” Since then, a Facebook group has been created urging for the boycott of Ninja City until Bac Nguyen issues a sincere apology for his actions.
Well, folks, it looks like Ruchu Tan go what he wanted. Today, Bac Nguyen released an official apology on the company website.
“Hi everyone, this is Bac, chef/owner of Ninja City and Bac in Tremont. I’m also the guy that’s been getting a lot of controversial press right now regarding an incident stemming from a Yelp review from September 8th, 2014. The fact is, I said some really stupid things. I’m genuinely sorry for saying those things. I wish I could take them back, but I can’t. However, I’m here to apologize, and to try to make it right and learn from it.
A lot of things have been said about me lately, and I deserve much of it. I did act crazy, irrational, and said some horrible things. I can’t deny that what I did was wrong. However, I am not a racist. I work with and employ people from all different ethnic backgrounds. One of my business partners is an Indian American woman, and she has provided the following statement on my behalf. I thank everyone who has reached out to me regarding the issue of me being racist, as people who know me personally know that this is not the case.
I’m not here to make any excuses. The simple fact is that I lost my temper in response to a negative online review that I misinterpreted as more personal than was intended. As a chef and small business owner, I take a lot of pride in my work. My business partners, family, friends and I pour our hearts and souls into what we do. Sometimes, it’s difficult to hear criticism after you’ve invested so much hard work, time and money in something you’re passionate about – especially when your business first opens. I mistakenly assumed that the negative review was written personally and maliciously, and I was wrong. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I don’t expect every single person to love our food.
To Ruchu and his friends – once again, I am sorry. I’m sorry for misinterpreting your criticism as personal, and responding so poorly. Shortly after my outburst, I provided both a written apology and a video apology, which I am now sharing out of respect. Ruchu – I have also reached out to you directly one more time as well, as I feel like I still owe you a face-to-face apology for both my original reaction as well as any subsequent actions on my part. However, I completely respect your decision if you’d still rather not meet.
To my fans and supporters, my staff, my business partners, my family and friends – I am sorry. I have always wanted to make you all proud. And to the city of Cleveland, a town that I’ve lived in my whole life and a town that I take incredible pride in – a town that has always supported and encouraged me, I am sorry to have brought negative light to our great city.
To the individuals who are members of the “Stop Consumer Intimidation” boycott group on Facebook, I’d like to extend an offer to you. If you are a member of this group as of 12:00pm on Thursday, October 30th, 2014, I welcome you to come enjoy a complimentary meal at Ninja City anytime between now and December 31st, 2014 (alcohol not included). All that I ask is that you kindly complete a comment card during your visit to share your opinions with us so that we can continue improving.”
Akhila Raghavan Skiftenes, who is ironically an Indian women and co-owner of Ninja City, also issued her own apology.
“Dear Clevelanders and beyond,
After a moment of personal weakness and frustration during which Chef Bac Nguyen gave in to his emotions in an outburst directed at a Yelp reviewer, he has been accused of harboring racist views, in particular against Indian people.
I am an Indian woman who has been friends with Bac for nearly 15 years in addition to being a co-owner of Ninja City. Bac and I went to college together and have worked together professionally for many years. I have only seen him treat all races and creeds with respect. He has never said a racist word to me or anyone I know and I was honored when he invited me to invest in his new restaurant.
My opinion of Bac Nguyen hasn’t changed at all as a result of that unfortunate incident. He is human and made an emotional decision at a time of great stress. He understands that he reacted inappropriately and is sincerely apologetic for his actions.
Bac is a man who is investing in Cleveland and trying to make his home town a better place and I am excited to have a part in these efforts through my involvement in Ninja City. I know that Bac will continue to play an active role in the Cleveland community and continue to have a positive impact on our city. I look forward to seeing more great things Bac can and will do for our diverse and forgiving community.”