The Waiter Hero of Houston: Server Defends Child With Down Syndrome, Internet Cheers

At this restaurant, you're not gonna get food if you're gonna be rude.

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When a customer at a Houston restaurant made a disparaging crack about a little boy with Down Syndrome, waiter Michael Garcia couldn’t hold back his feelings. He refused to serve the customers and gave them a lesson in manners.

Last week, Kim Castillo was at Laurenzo’s Prime Rib with Milo, her 5-year-old son. The Castillos are regulars at the restaurant, like family to many of the waitstaff, including Garcia. A family sitting nearby, also regulars, asked to be moved from their current booth, which was right next to Milo and his mom.

“Special needs children need to be special somewhere else,” said one of the customers, reported Houston’s KPRC-TV.

That’s when Garcia cracked.

“‘How could you say that?’” Garcia demanded of the customer before they left Laurenzo’s. “‘How could you say that about a beautiful 5-year-old angel?’”

Kim Castillo was touched, but concerned that Garcia might lose his job for refusing to serve the customers.

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“I was impressed that somebody would step out of their own comfort level and put their job on the line as well as to stand up for somebody else,” she said. “I know Michael did it from his heart, and from reacting to the situation. I don’t think he stopped and thought about what he was doing.”

The restaurant stood by Garcia. The rest of the country did, too: Garcia, who has worked at Laurenzo’s for two years and enthusiastically greets the Castillos whenever they come in, has been lauded as a hero for standing up for Milo. Admirers across the country have flooded the restaurant’s Facebook with appreciative posts, and many have sought out Garcia to thank him in person.

“The business has just been huge,” said Candace Roberts, a server at Laurenzo’s. “People are coming in to shake his hand and eat at our restaurant and loving it.”

One Facebook user, who posted a note of thanks on the restaurant’s page, said she would make a point to eat at Laurenzo’s the next time she was in Houston.

“Thank you for hiring a waiter like Mr Garcia,” she said. “It shows you are people with principles and morals and I salute you.”

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First of all, the coverage on this story seems a bit light. People rarely say or do things in a vacuum, so I wonder if something specific prompted the comment. All too often, parents just don't control the behavior of their children in public, whether they have special needs or not.

Having said that, while I wouldn't have expressed myself in such a way, personally, the patron who made the crack has the right to say what s/he wants. People are all about free speech until someone says something the majority doesn't like. That's both ignorant and short-sighted -- the day may come when someone doesn't like your speech.

I think the patrons who were denied service could probably sue for not being served, but I hope they don't do that because the whole thing has been blown out of proportion, as it is. Basically, those who are irritated by kids should avoid family restaurants. I do.


@KLR as a private entity free speech stops at the door. the restaurant has every right to choose whom they serve within the bounds of the law(can't discriminate against specific groups based on race, gender, age, etc...). they CAN say whatever they want, but in doing that they must accept the consequences of their remarks. 

as far as "parents just don't control the behavior of their children"...we see this convenient claim if the child is doing anything but looking directly at their menu remaining completely silent. it just doesn't happen most of the time...are there some children that are genuinely out of control and  the parents sitting by doing nothing? absolutely. but labeling all parents as useless in parenting in restaurants when kids most of the time are doing nothing more than is expected of their age group? I think not. that my friend, is not a problem with the parenting or the children.....but with you.

good day.


@KLR Restaurants have the right to refuse service. If they tried to file suit it would just make them all the more unpopular.


@Heian @KLR

Mr. Garcia doesn't own the restaurant; he works there. The restaurant has chosen to stand by him, but that doesn't mean he represents them, from a legal standpoint. Also, even a private establishment doesn't have the right to refuse service for any reason. There are many exceptions. Ultimately, a judge would have to decide.

As for the couple not suing because it would make them "more unpopular", none of us can really say what they'll choose to do or why but, frankly, fear of not being popular is really a motive that's best left back in high school. I think that would be a childish reason to either do or not do something.

Helismoke 1 Like

I worked with Brown's Alcohol Fetal Syndrome kids in the 1960's while in school. They were loving , caring, great little kids.

When we took them out to the parks, beach, or bowling alley it was the public who had the mental deficiencies, and this was in California!


I just hope the rejected customers have a computer and intelligence enough to read about themselves.