Umai Bar & Grill Graffitied With Racist Hate Crime; Suspect Arrested
Upon arriving at their Elk Grove Restaurant, Umai Bar & Grill, co-owners Feng Liang, and Andy Cuong found a very disheartening racist message sprayed painted across the establishment’s door. This message was meant to make the owners and employees of the popular sushi establishment, located on Grant Line Road, feel unwelcome in their community.
During the night, around 3 AM, an unknown man was spotted on the establishment’s surveillance cameras defacing the popular restaurant’s front door and walkway with anti-Asian hate speech. An unidentified corrosive agent was spilled on the polished concrete walkway, causing visible scaring to its polished finish.
As word spread through the community, residents angry that a hate crime had occurred spoke out and showed up at the business to offer support. Showing up with pressure washers, detergent, and work gloves neighbors and community members worked together to help clean up the mess.
“Umai means delicious!” A place with history, values, and goals.
A late afternoon visit to the local eatery found its dining room closed, but take-out meals making their way steadily out the door. We sat down with restaurant co-owner Feng Liang to discuss the restaurant’s history, the damage, and its impact upon the staff and owners. After noting the intricate and incredibly visually appealing interior design we asked Feng,
“What does the name Umai mean and what does this restaurant mean to you?”
She shared that “Umai” simply means “delicious” and when she and her business partners Shan Liang, Judy Cuong, and Andy Cuong dreamed of creating their business they envisioned a place that was “something bigger than themselves.”
Feng shared they wanted to help make Elk Grove a more culinary diverse community by bringing delicious sushi and other dishes to the area. Long time Elk Grove residents, the partners have succeeded in creating a place where people can come together, in a “fancy little place” to get great food, drinks, and entertainment. The restaurant celebrated its 3rd anniversary in late May.
As with many local eateries, business has been down for Umai
Their success has not come with struggles and like many local businesses, they are feeling the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown.
“The first shut down was incredibly difficult for us, ” Feng explained, keeping her ever-present smile in place. She continued, “The second is even harder because each day we try to just keep our hopes up and we try to stay positive.”
In spite of all the damage, Feng remained positive and upbeat. “Out of all of this negative has come so much positive,” said Feng, referring to all of the community helpers who showed up to help clean up the mess.
When asked if she and her partners still felt “safe and welcome in the community?”
She answered with absolute clarity. “Yes, this negative experience is not what all of Elk Grove is like.” She gestured towards the freshly cleaned mess, shared the names of the numerous community supporters and friends who had come out to help, and smiled. “We appreciate the love everyone has shown us.”
Community Leaders Speak Out
Judy Cuong, Co-Owner of Umai Offers Her Thanks To The Community
“We want to thank our community of Wilton and Elk Grove for the outpouring of support and love. Thanks also to our new Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen for offering her support. We won’t let this get us down. We encourage everyone to come on out to see us. Let’s show them that racism has no place in our city!”
Mayor of Elk Grove Bobbie Singh-Allen
“What happened to Umai Bar and Grill and the racist message that was used is absolutely unacceptable and will not be tolerated in our city. While police were investigating, it was very important to me to stop by the restaurant to share my empathy and support with the owners on behalf of our Elk Grove community.
I want to encourage all residents to show their support and condemn this attack by ordering your next meal from them. Let’s unite and say no to hateful attacks like this.”
City Council Member Darren Suen
“This hateful and disgusting act does not define our community. The overwhelming support the owners received from residents is what our community is about.”
Co-President of Florin Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League Joshua Kaizuka
“There is no place in our community for this kind of hate speech and vandalism. Unfortunately, there are those who perpetuate hate and racism and the Asian American community has become another target due to politicians who are trying to deflect their own failures.
We will stand with the community to denounce acts of hate and trust the the individual responsible is identified so it does not happen again.”
Elk Grove Police Department
“At 10:30 am on December 17, 2020, the Elk Grove Police Department received a report of vandalism that took place at the Umai Bar and Grill in the 8900 block of Grant Line Road earlier in the morning around 5:00 am. Officers arrived to find the front of the business vandalized and hate-related graffiti spray painted on the doors.
The initial investigation found the business surveillance cameras recorded a portion of the incident. Investigators immediately directed their efforts to identifying the involved suspect. Through the course of the investigation, detectives identified the suspect as 43-year-old Elk Grove resident, Lahn Hansen. Officers located Hansen in the area of Bond Road and Bradshaw Road and detained him. A search of Hansen’s vehicle led to the discovery of evidence related to the reported crime. Officers also located items related to a previously reported burglary from a church property, burglary tools and narcotics. Hansen was arrested for various charges to include PC 422.6 (b), hate crime, and transported to the main jail for booking.”
Elk Grove Police Chief Timothy Albright made a statement. “I want this community to know that crimes targeted at any demographic will not be tolerated in Elk Grove. Elk Grove will not allow the inexcusable actions of one person to tarnish the dedication this community has to fostering a climate of inclusivity, diversity, and respect.”
Show Your Support For Umai Bar & Grill
The restaurant is closed for in-door dining due to the current Covid-19 shutdown order, but take out is available. And the restaurant is selling gift cards that may be used after Covid-19 is a thing of the past.
Umai’s menu is filled with tasty, tempting, and sometimes tempura-fried dishes such as the Chicken tempura served with tonkatsu sauce…check them out, you won’t be disappointed!
Address: 8973 Grant Line Road, Suite 100, Elk Grove
Phone#: (916) 686-6833
Facebook: Umai Bar & Grill
Website Set up To Track Anti-Asian Hate Incidents
Anti-Asian rhetoric from President Donald Trump and other top GOP officials, who have referred to COVID-19 as “The Chinese virus,” could be fueling the rise in hate incidents.
To track and better respond to race-based hate incidents, which include microaggressions and online attacks, San Francisco-based Chinese for Affirmative Action worked with the Asian American Planning and Policy Council, known as A3PCON. And the San Francisco State University Asian American Studies Department to create a website where individuals can document incidents of anti-Asian hate.
Hate Is A Virus
“#HATEISAVIRUS started as a grassroots movement to combat racism and xenophobia against Asian Americans (AAPI) fueled by COVID-19. Since launching in April 2020, we have evolved into a sustainable organization that addresses xenophobia and hate in the AAPI and BIPOC communities. We combat racism and xenophobia through their educational and philanthropic programs and thoughtful awareness building.”