Franklin Countys First News

Letter stops restaurant’s Confederate battle flag display

GrantLee's 20th Maine Tavern & Grill in Farmington would at times fly the battle flag of the confederacy that featured the Southern Cross linked to racists groups and slavery. At right, the first official flag of the Confederacy, called the "stars and bars" was displayed, along side the 54th Massachusetts flag, at second right, on Monday.

FARMINGTON - Owners of a local restaurant have decided to no longer display a Confederate flag out in front of their establishment in response to a letter to the editor that called for boycotting the establishment.

The Battle Flag of the Confederacy featuring the Southern Cross will no longer fly on the porch of GrantLee's restaurant.

Farmington resident Daniel Salerno's letter posted here on Jan.7, complained of the flag's racist roots "of both slavery and open rebellion against the United States of America." He said flying the Confederate flag featuring the Southern Cross out front of GrantLee's 20th Maine Tavern & Grill on Fairbanks Road (Routes 4&27) in Farmington was "a disgrace," particularly, he said, when considering it's the home state of Joshua L. Chamberlain, a Maine native who led the 20th Maine Infantry in the brutal Civil War battle to hold Little Round Top at Gettysburg, Penn.

"I now imagine what Chamberlain and his men would think to see a business in their very own Maine flying the noxious flag of both slavery and open rebellion against the United States of America," Salerno wrote.

Vicki Bates, who owns GrantLee's with her husband Richard Bates, said they decided to no longer fly the Confederate battle flag out front of their restaurant because they "don't want to offend anyone."

"We don't want to rock any boats," she said. "We're just trying to run a business here."

Since they opened their Civil War-themed restaurant in September 2010 that specializes in a northern and southern-inspired menu with a heavy emphasis on smoked barbecue, they have daily displayed two Union and two Confederate flags across the front of their restaurant. In all, they have a total of 20 different battle flags they fly on a rotational basis, alongside the American stars and stripes they always display on the left most position, as they were instructed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars office in Washington D.C. They had called for instructions before opening the restaurant to find out the correct way to display the Civil War flags with the American flag.

The Bates family, including their daughter Danielle, decided to open up the restaurant featuring Civil War memorabilia in Farmington for reasons that included an extended family connection in the area, Richard Bates' avid interest in the Civil War  period and the couple having lived in both the north and the south over the years.

GrantLee's, named for Civil War generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, features paintings of famous battle scenes, books, guns and other artifacts from the period displayed around the restaurant. The menu itself has facts from the war. Vicki Bates said they intended to provide a little history lesson to go with each meal.

Although all of the flags are battle flags, Bates said, it is the Confederate flag featuring the Southern Cross that has brought a few other complaints besides Salerno's recent letter.

"A couple of people were perturbed about the Confederate flag," Bates said. "One woman from New Vineyard was very, very offended." Bates invited the woman to the restaurant and explained the intent was to have on display artifacts from the Civil War period that include battle flags. "She looked around and said, 'Oh, I get it,'" Bates said.

Salerno, a University of Maine at Farmington literature instructor, said the restaurant's owners are making the right decision to no longer display the most infamous of the Confederate battle flags, which today remains a reminder of slavery and segregation. The Ku Klux Klan and other racist hate groups have marched with the flag.

Salerno said he didn't believe it was their intention to offend, but prominently displaying a symbol of racism at a business  gives the perception that racism is tolerated and that reflects poorly on the town, he said.

"I am happy they were quick to make that decision and wish them nothing but the best," Salerno said.

"We love the area and we want our business to thrive," Bates said. "We weren't hanging that flag out because we're Southern sympathizers. I would hope Chamberlain would understand."

GrantLee's is a family-style restaurant serving both a Yankee- and southern-inspired menu.

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90 Responses »

  1. This is quite the ongoing discussion, I found it very interesting to get a minor flag history lesson as well as frustrated to hear people crying. It pains me that the world has so many becoming "offended" get over it! This is America after all! If nothing else it was a prime invitation to have new patrons stop to see what the flags were all about, while others were quick to jump on the band wagon. Too many are quick to scream "I'm offended" or "that goes against my beliefs" play, its right up there with the sue crazy population,( I didn't get my way so I will just sue you). What happened to make so many so freaking sensitive? Put on your "big girl panties" and get on with your day! The rest of us are offended by the pure lack of allowing others their freedoms...whatever they may be.

  2. Regarding the Updated Story:

    The Bates lived up to the restaurant's reputation as a fair minded, reasonable, caring place.

    The question I have regards whether the end justifies the means.

    Could the same have been achieved in a meaningful, private conversation or did it necessitate a public call for boycott and the spirited, at times heated, exchange here in this forum to see action?

  3. Sticks and stones may break my bones but flags will never hurt me ! What's next cotton ?

  4. Right on, Nik.

  5. Seems to me that no matter what you do, someone is going to be offended. We just need to tell the obsessively offended to take a flying leap. If they don't want to go to to the restaurant because of a flag, then don't go. Simple as that.

  6. Who Cares? Let's go eat some GREAT FOOD @ Grant Lee's!!
    The flag won't change the good quality of the food or service!

  7. Daniel Salerno must have skeletons in his closet, we are taught to be more tolerent of others. Who's his next victim? Southern food is the best!

  8. I find it offensive that someone had nothing better to do than to write a nasty letter to the editor about a wonderful restaurant run by decent people. There are much more important issues than trying to put hardworkimg folks out of business. I hope his letter had the opposite effect and drew in more business.

  9. Alright everyone, back to work. Let's put this much energy into something worthwhile, feeding homeless people, stopping child abuse, etc. It's a FLAG, and really, it has nothing to do with the quality of the establishment in question. So seriously, stop squabbling and sniping at each other like children, and do something useful.

  10. Ridiculous. People have nothing better to do nowadays than get upset over nothing. It would be totally different if the restaurant was flying the Confederate flag with the intent to offend and promote racism, but where it is a Civil War Themed hangout then it appears only proper to fly both the Union and Confederate flag at corresponding times throughout the day.

  11. They serve BBQ? Yum!
    What are their hours?

  12. Give me a break. The flag is part of US history, and that is what it was representing in this case. It was NOT put there as a political statement.

  13. Glad my dad wasn't alive for this debate. He was a lifelong (87 year) resident of Franklin County and proudly displayed two Confederate battle flags on the front of his motorcyle! He knew Civil War history better than any man I have ever met and understood that we cannot change history just because we don't like it.

  14. Let us all make an effort to contact the owners and request that the flag be flown again and forget this pc hogwash.

  15. wow all these comments are interesting...ive never been to this restraunt i dont go that way often in my travels but since its opened and ive heard the name and heard it was a Civil war themed restraunt i for one would have expected to see the confederate flag...I understand people get offended but those who get offended are they assuming the owners of the restraunt are racist? But then again you cant please everyone its not possible...although my family and I will be trying this place...nothing better then good food and history together!

  16. simply unbelievable, it's a civil war artifact, not a promotion of slavery!

    this salerno guy needs to get back to work and stop causing problems. this is a FREE country. i think we should all fly confederate flags on our properties, not to promote slavery, but to make a statement.

  17. I agree with Dave- it is what it is, and these fine people should not have been BULLIED by otherwise intelligent people into taking down a flag with historical significance to the theme of their business. It was, and should still be, part of their decor. I say good for them for not being so short sighted as to read into something an intention that was clearly not meant. If the criteria used in judging this flag display were used in judging ALL flag displays, I dare say I would never see a flag flown anywhere in the Farmington area. Bates' family, fly that flag! Show us that you will not be bullied by those that will see the bad in everything! It is, after all, your right as Americans to do so. I for one will be more likely to be a patron of a business that does not bow to narrow minded citizens (and other businesses looking to boost their own bottom line) than a place that uses hypocrisy to earn more $$$. BTW- your BBQ is the BEST this side of the Mason/Dixon Line!

  18. Keep flying the flag for it is a Civil War Themed establishment. If Mr S doesn't like it he doesn't have to eat there or drive by it. He can always leave Town and take his Liberal views with him to some other Country and live

  19. I agree with Nik and the others in the fact that OUR beautiful Nation has become so boohooey and sue happy! The Restaurant was obviously not trying to offend! The cry babies could have approached the Bates' and talked to them about it instead of trying to have a Public cry of Racism! Most of the Hate crimes in this Nation would probably stop if most people let some things go on any side or view. It is America and we all have rights. Have a great day and GOD speed. OH and by the way! The Confederate Flag is not just a RACIST symbol! It is part of our countrys HISTORY as well as other artifacts! MOVE ON and Stop the conflict!

  20. Well said, Nik and Roadkill, and how true. If everyone would just let it go.

  21. Oh my...the politically correct police are crying again.

    Well, I'm offended at the issues about the "improper flag!"

    So, should I have my say too?

    It's just a flag and is not there to promote racisim or rebellion...whoodee damn do...

    Flamming liberals. Whine about everything, including freedom of long as it only meets their personal agenda.

  22. Personally I found the flag flying out front to be offensive and didn't eat there because of it. Im glad they took it down and may finally have to try their food. My response to those that say it is a part of history and can't be changed and we should just accept it... would you like to see a german restaurant in town flying the nazi flag?

  23. The swastica (SP?) was never the national flag of Germany, it was the flag of the 3rd Reich. The Conferderate flag, however, was/is an American flag, whether you like it or not. Have you ever been to an Italian restaurant and seen the Italian flag there? Italy was a fascist country at one time. How about Chinese restaurants? Russian? Pick a country, and I bet you can find someone, somewhere that has a problem with them. The point is, people,is that we all believe what we believe, and that is a hard thing to change. Fortunately, this is America, and we all get to believe what we choose to, and cannot (should not) be persecuted for it. As I stated before, the historically themed establishment should put the flag back, and not be BULLIED into removing it. Oh, and don't ever go to the Smithsonian, folks, you'd be very offended at the things on dislpay there.

  24. @Local... unfortunately it is the closed minded views of people like you that bring this world down and close it in tighter and tighter on itself. Do you have kids? If you do, would you take them out of school because their holocaust unit has pictures of a swastika or nazi flag in the history book? Oh my oh my history should be ignored right? Wow, this is unbelievable that this "professor" had to start this episode of BS and that people actually bought into it on his side. GET A LIFE PEOPLE. This is just an embarrassment that some people in this community have to go so low to attack a business trying to EARN THEIR LIVING unlike a good percentage of the people who live here. Maybe the owners should just pack up and bring their business to somewhere it would be appreciated and understood and in turn further deplete our small businesses that help keep your taxes down and provide you with good products and services. SHAME ON ANYONE WHO IS AGAINST THIS ESTABLISHMENT BECAUSE OF THEIR MEMORABILIA AND HISTORY DISPLAYS!!! WHAT IS THIS BECOMING THE NEW NORTH KOREA OR WHAT??? PRETTY SICK AND UNEDUCATED STUNT FROM SOMEONE WHO IS SUPPOSED TO EDUCATE OTHERS. I SAY BOYCOTT ALL HIS CLASSES AND GET HIM FIRED AND SEE HOW HE LIKES TO LOOSE MONEY. Anyone want to start a boycott of his classes and see how he likes to lose income?

  25. @Local....One more thing, comparing a mass murder of a religion/race upwards of millions of people for no reason can only be compared to the United States Civil War when you basically have nothing else to back up your opinion other than pulling two things together that are absolutely non-comparable. Maybe this professor can educate you once he finds free time between "educating" and "bashing". Thanks for your time. I'm sure you are actually a very intelligent person, just a hazy sense of realism. I'm just plain old REALISTIC. Have a great day :)

  26. A final shot - am amazed that a university instructor has such a superficial knowledge of the Civil War and such a shallow understanding of it. There were at least two Maine-born (one from Avon) Brigadier Generals fighting for the Confederacy and probably most of the Northern foot soldiers had no concerns about slavery. Look up the draft riots in the cities in the North of those who did not wish to participate and stop to realize that most of the Southern soldiers also had no concerns with slavery. The dependency of the South on slavery was of course a major economic factor, especially when competing with the industrial North, and disgust with slavery did motivate many, just as it does today. Across the US and in Maine, re-enactments are common as well as parades including Confederate-dressed participants. Retired UMF Professor Jay Hoar is greatly respected for his published works on Confederate soldiers. Had Mr. Salerno been on the faculty at the time, I wonder what his reaction would have been to UMF students stomping on the US flags on the floor during an art project a few years ago.... Rejoice in the death of slavery and get on with enjoying Maine.....

  27. @odds and ends - the flags are NOT all flying at the same height - the AMERICAN flag is the highest and put up FIRST at opening and taken down last at closing. Get your facts straight!

  28. like it or not the confederate flag is american history. I dont think it represents slavery and racisim. That is what some of the people who flew the flag represented. In fact i can look the flag and even admire it without at all feeling hatred toward anyone i would think a college proffesor could maybe look at the flag in a more educated way than that

  29. Food for thought,
    I can't help but wonder what the reaction would be to a WWII themed establishment flying the swastika along with the stars and stripes, the same enthusiasm as for the stars and bars? Its not apples and oranges, its all of a piece.

  30. interesting.... liberals always preach tolerance but they have many things that they are intolerant of and they are all bullies to the nth degree.

  31. For me, seeing that flag flying was incredibly sad and depressing, even though I understand the context the owners intended. We're lucky here to be able to avoid most supremacists and the KKK, but to many Americans, that flag is a vibrant symbol of hate today. The murder of James Byrd reactivated that flag--it was a national tragedy and a national discussion. Even the most bad-ass southern college guys decided to remove their battle flags from their walls and pickups after that. I'm glad for the town's sake the flag no longer flies (and flying does mean something very different than ordinary display). People driving through were unlikely to understand the owners' intention because in most places in the US to fly that flag sends a very specific and contemporary message of hate.

  32. @REALISTIC. I am not against the restaurant, I just chose not to eat there because of the flag out front. Now its going so it's not an issue anymore. No I haven't taken my child out of school because they have pictures of history in their books, although I would probably not eat at a restaurant displaying nazi memorabilia either. I will add that 400 years of slavery might be as bad as the holocaust.

  33. He's a HISTORY professor??? Ignorance is bliss.

  34. ENOUGH OF THE SWASTIKA COMPARISON! You know most of you folks that are defending this bullying obviously take pride in continuing to argue about something that is not a threat to us any longer. For hundreds and thousands of years there has been things,people,countries, religions etc that have done bad things or what have you to their opposites. It is ALL History, this is how we are taught to forgive and learn to not do it again. Just because someone or in this case this business flies a Confederat States of America Flag does not make them racist, or anti Govt' or ignorant or anything else. NAZI Germany and The Southern States are not the same!

  35. I love all the posters comparing Salerno to North Korea who complain about the confederacy/nazi comparison. Who is being hysterical. Glad the flag is gone....

  36. I don't know Daniel's motivation for feeling offended. But I can tell you that if I owned a business in Farmington I wouldn't display this flag just out of concern that it might be offensive to some. I thank the owners for taking it down although I acknowledge they didn't have to. I came to Farmington because it was, at one time, a friendly and gentle place to live. It never hurts anyone to be courteous and kind to others, and in fact it is kind of refreshing to see these days. Being kind, by the way, is the willingness to put the feelings of someone else first, regardless of one's own rights.

  37. What if instead of a Confederate Naval Jack (the 3x5 flag) they flew a Battle flag (3x3) with unit designation and battles emblazoned on it? either first or second issue bunting....What would really throw people off is if they flew a Hardee's Brigade flag out front. If there was a black flag with a big Q in the corner would anyone be offended? Quantril's Raiders..
    The Point being Its all a matter of perspective...our knowledge of history has been boiled down to just a few talking points...Because slavery is so repugnant the facts that are on the edges are lost....Kingfield Maine was the location of a draft riot...which calmed down quickly when the news came that a regiment from Augusta was coming up on the train...then the people met them with a Brass band...the Mayor of NYC wanted to Secede and the Gov. of Conn was a copperhead...because as a country we were intertwined economically with the South, the cotton trade was what drove our mills, it wasen't all wool we were weaving....Most soldiers were fighting to preserve the union...quite a few did not reenlist after the Emancipation Proclamation (which did not free slaves in union border states) if one thing will come of this is that some who post other history facts we are all learning more about our country's history...But It is unfortunate that someone would not have the foresight to recognize that it is a themed restaurant miss the Fact that its Called Grantlees, has both R.E.Lee and Grant at a table (like at Appomattox) and a multitude of other flags and then decide to not go there because of the Confederate Naval Jack...its good BBQ......
    anyway there may be an error in my history facts and if you find it congratulations! plus you went and did some we are starting to learn....

  38. I find this whole incident extremely interesting. As a Civil War re-enactor (Confederate) I have been to Maine on several occasions to take part in events at Fort Knox and at Norlands. The Confederate camp at all times was full of visitors wanting to learn more about the terrible event that tore this country apart 150 years ago. At no time were we derided for taking the position of the South, nor were there every derogatory comments made about the South or the Southern soldier. The flag that was flying in front of GrantLees was never the flag of the Confederacy -- it was the battle flag, and those who have misappropriated it for their racist and redneck views are the ones who should be condemned -- not the flag.

    Was the American Civil War fought over slavery? No. President Lincoln had said on many occasions that he would not interfere with "the peculiar institution" in those areas where it already existed. What the Civil War was fought over was the extension of slavery into the territories acquired from Mexico after the Mexican-American War. When the Wilmot Proviso was submitted to Congress (which would have forever banned slavery in any of the new territories -- going against the Compromise of 1820), it was denounced by not only the Southern congressional contingent, but many of the Northern Congressmen as well.

    It is also interesting to note that while traveling to and from the Civil War events I have seen many pick-up truck (with Maine license plates) sporting the battle flag. It seems as though there are some residents of Maine who are not offended by it.

    In response to Mr. Salerno -- I do not believe that Mr. Chamberlain would have been upset by seeing the flag in front of GrantLees. First and foremost, Chamberlain's intent was to help save the Union -- a Union that he believed in. Secondly, he was an extremely intelligent human being, and would have understood why the owners of the restaurant are flying flags representing both sides. He would have also felt honored that the 20th Maine is prominently mentioned on their sign.

    I think that if anyone wants to understand the American Civil War they need to start their studies much earlier than 1861 (the year the war began) and go back to the end of the War of 1812 and begin there. The period from 1815 to 1855 was arguably the most important period in American history.

    Lew Taylor
    6th RGT, 1st DIV, ANV

  39. It is a Civil War theme restaurant and I would have no problem hanging a Confederate flag. But I do realize alot of people have their opinions. I remeber 10 years ago one of my black friends was offended when a friend of mine displayed the Confederate flag at my birthday party. Now this friend knows me, been to my house for dinner and knows I am a Civil War reenactor. But he was my guest and I apoligized to him for being offended. After 9/11 I hung a Betsy Ross flag everyday in front of my store here in Hawaii thinking I was being a Patriot and showing the original flag of what I thought this great country stood for. Well after 7 people came into my store wanting to know why I hung a Confederate flag in front of my store I told my wife we won't hang it anymore. As far as the KKK using the Confederate flag they also use the American flag. My family will eat at your restaurant if we get up to Maine.

  40. The Naval Jack and Battle flag are now the same?????

    I'm confused. I think that Pratt guy and Taylor guy know of what they speak! ( See Above)

    Mal Grant