Ashford House is 'Something We Have to Stand up for,' Customer Says
After a quiet and discouraging day for a Tinley Park business owner whose restaurant was the site of a vicious attack over the weekend, community members didn't hesitate to show their support on Monday.
After seeing the "ghost town" that was his restaurant on Sunday, Mike Winston said he never would have expected Monday to be what it was—an overwhelming outpouring of support from the community.
The Ashford House and adjacent Winston Market owner said he knew business would take a hit after a mob of about 15 assailants descended on his restaurant Saturday afternoon. But there were few parking spots to be had around 10:40 a.m. Monday morning. Many diners said they were there specifically to show their support for Winston.
Customers like Bob and Jeanne Gile, of Orland Park, knew Monday called for a visit to one of their most beloved Irish-rooted restaurants.
"We came to support the business," Jeanne said around 11 a.m. with her husband, Bob, at her side. "My husband is Irish. He feels very sad and I do, too."
She said that spending money at locally owned businesses like Ashford House "preserves the character of the area."
"We're glad to see they're doing well this morning," she said, with a smile. "Everything has been very organized. You'd never know there was an incident. We just enjoyed a wonderful breakfast."
Winston admitted he was still a bit shell-shocked from the weekend's altercation.
"It was a scary situation for everyone," he said. "And with some of the misinformation floating around, we felt discouraged."
Some reports speculated that Winston could have been associated with the groups involved in the incident—assumptions that he says have seriously dampened his spirits. Tinley Park police sources have said there's no evidence to suggest that anyone at the restaurant, let alone Winston, knew what was coming.
"Why in the world would I be associated with these groups?" he said. "They entered my business and caused serious damage. When people make a reservation, we don't ask them about their political beliefs."
Winston said he came from the kitchen area when he heard commotion in the restaurant that day and saw two men flipping tables in a dining area. Thinking the incident was isolated to the duo, he chased them and pinned one to the ground.
"If I knew there were 18 in the group, I wouldn't have done that," he said, adding that a cluster of five men began attacking him while he detained the one assailant. He had a scrape on his head while working Monday but had not been hospitalized.
Masked, black-clad attackers stormed the restaurant around 12:30 p.m. Saturday with metal batons and hammers in hand, authorities have said, and diners leapt up from their chairs, grabbing furniture to defend themselves. But the group—officials have said they were targeting a meeting of white supremacists—primarily zeroed in on a table reserved for 20 in a rear dining area, Winston said.
Ten people were injured in the attack and three received staples in their heads, prosecutors confirmed Monday afternoon. The Ashford House remained closed for what was left of Saturday. And on Sunday, Winston said they may as well have shuttered the doors again.
"The weekends are what get us through," he said on Monday. "They pay for the whole week. So it hurt. It really did. Other than private parties … showers, celebrations and other events … our Sunday brunch is what keeps us going. But yesterday, you could hear a pin drop in here."
Aside from what court documents detail as $15,000 in damages to the restaurant, losses have stemmed from cancellations from three large groups that had scheduled events at Ashford House during those two days, Winston said. He's talking with some parties whose members are debating similar choices.
But regular customers like Mary Nolan, and her 22-year-old daughter, Kerry, were by no means in limbo about showing up at one of their favorite breakfast spots.
"They've lost a lot of business," Kerry said Monday. "We really didn't think twice about it."
Kerry's grandfather, Sean McPartland, 75, of Hickory Hills, said he's a longtime friend of Winston's. He said Ashford House is a place he's always felt at home.
"It's not just me who believes that," he said. "You could walk in here not knowing anyone and he would accept you with open arms. That's the beauty of a place like this. It's something we have to stand up for."
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