Statement from Max Kuller Owner of Proof: “We have removed the sign and apologize for any offense we have caused.”


Update from yesterday’s discussion about the above sign:

Max Kuller, owner of Proof says: “We want to apologize for offending anyone with an inappropriate sign for our restrooms at Proof. The sign has been up since we opened our doors almost 10 years ago, and when it was put up, was only meant to be tongue-in-cheek, never to offend or indicate that Proof is anything but a safe and respectful place. Our restaurant has always been an avid supporter and fundraiser of equal rights for all. We have removed the sign and apologize for any offense we have caused.”

Anon notes in the original post that she received the same apology on Facebook and replied:

“I returned the note suggesting they make a donation to a charity supporting women who have been the victim of violence/ assault representing every single day of the 10 years the sign was displayed. I also made sure to point out the delusion that this is humorous is an ignorance that is inexcusable. It’s all just really a perfect example how many men… even the ones who fancy themselves to be progressive… are unable to really process their role in perpetuating the belief that its ok (funny) to objectify women.”

118 Comment

  • Holy crap, it was up for TEN YEARS?!? I’d bet my life savings squicked-out women have been complaining for that long, and the owners just figured all these P.C. feminazis have no sense of humor… for ten years. Gross, gross, gross.

  • Back off! It was a sincere apology and the sign has been removed. Why do you want to blackmail them for a donation now?

  • Handled the right way. The owner of Corduroy could learn a thing or two from this.

  • Way too little, much, much, much too late.

    • Re too little – they took down the sign, and apologized? What more do you require?

      • The right to voice my opinion on a public forum?

        • ah

          You have that too . . . why is your opinion that it’s much too late and much too little?

        • Of course. I will be clearer. I am on board with too late, but you say they did too little – what more would you like to see them do? Or are you keeping it a secret?

          • dcd, I’m with you until the end of your posts on both of these. They’re rubbing me the wrong way. But to answer your question & ah’s question, I would like the apology to own much more than this about being civil rights. It’s about sexual assault, of which 1 in every 6 women have been a victim (including myself). This “tongue in cheek joke” is so far unacceptable that I’m unsure of any apology that would satisfy me; but this one of low accountability doesn’t begin to do the trick.

          • Ajr, I’m with you: I would’ve preferred an apology that didn’t minimize/try to justify the sign. Nobody likes being called out for something didn’t think through/that they don’t think represents them. But that people can think something like this is “tongue-in-cheek” is exactly the problem with the way our society treats sexual assault and objectification. It leaves the impression they don’t really “get” the problem.

  • “Eh, we’ve been getting complaints from hysterical women for the past 10 years—even more since the Trump inauguration and so forth—but it’s not like it’s gotten bad press in any local blogs yet. … Oh dear—we’re so, so sorry.”

    • +1.

      • Seriously – this is much too little, too late and lacks a basic understanding of why this was a problem. Telling people that it’s been there for 10 freaking years doesn’t help b/c you know this wasn’t the first time a customer took issue with it. The person who shared is right that donating would be a step in the right direction but I don’t think anyone at Proof still gets why this is a problem and the type of culture it perpetuates. Plus it’s just stupid from a business perspective.

    • Do we have…ahem…”proof” that they’ve been getting complaints for the duration? I’m not being snarky, I just don’t know where that statement is coming from. Because if they’ve been getting complaints and doing nothing, that’s a different situation in my mind than if this is the first time anyone’s actually said anything to management about it.

      • This is from yesterday’s post: “We asked a woman working there about it and she said they got more complaints about it after Trump’s election. She also said they have gotten some complaints, and after one woman got really upset they took it down but then put it back out. We told them we would suggest they take it down permanently.”

  • They have gotten complaints from women for years, but the (shocker!) male owner dismissed them because they were just from “silly women.” Now he gets bad press and finally remove it. Forgive me if I’m not that impressed with the response.
    This sign is brought to you by the same type of men who catcall women and are just sure they love it. And then when one woman turns around and tells him he’s a jerk, he just thinks “well that’s just one woman. All the other women love it.” And keep right on doing it. Clueless.

    • They apologized, acknowledged it was inappropriate, and took the sign down. That seems like a reasonable response to me. It is nothing at all like your made-up version of their response (‘ just from “silly women.”’, ‘ he just thinks “well that’s just one woman. All the other women love it.” And keep right on doing it.’)

      • Obviously he didn’t use those words and it’s not a direct quote. But challenge yourself to think between the lines. What’s glaring is an attitude that is sadly all too familiar to at least half the population.
        (Also, if you read the original post, dude SAID had gotten complaints and even too it down once – only to put it right back up. So, he did not say: “we dismissed those complaints as not legitimate.” He just acted accordingly. Again. Think.)

        • actually the original post said a female employee received complaints, not the owner. It’s likely the complaints never reached the Owner, who responded. It may have reached a manager. But hey, your conclusion may vary.

          • Actually, original post: the female waitress said that “they have gotten some complaints, and after one woman got really upset they took it down but then put it back out.” I did not take that to mean that she had personally been receiving all the complaints. I took it to mean that this waitress was aware of the issue and the fact that management had been disregarding complaints. I also seriously doubt that this waitress was in charge of rehanging the sign.

  • Yes to the previous comments. Complaints from women are easy to dismiss. Bad press, now, that needs to be taken seriously!

  • These people are a**holes. Back when they first opened my husband and I went there on a snowy February to celebrate our anniversary (we were married on Leap Day, so we really do it up on 2/29). Husband has a disability which causes him not to be able to stand for long periods of time. We got there a bit before they opened, and we saw staff inside and asked if we could wait (so he could sit) in their vestibule. Didn’t want to go to the bar, look at a menu, only let him sit down. The ‘manager’ refused us and was very rude. We will never go to Proof or any of their properties, no matter what. That night, we ended up at a nearby restaurant (not the experience we were looking for) – where we dropped a bundle and told everyone we met about our experience – don’t go to Proof, ever!

  • So in other words this dude does not even understand that the complaints about the sign were over the fact that it literally encourages sexual violence? He thinks someone is asking about equal rights? There really should be a boycott.

  • jim_ed

    That’s good, but I’m honestly curious how he thought this was “tongue-in-cheek”? Is bathroom voyeurism considered edgy and I’ve missed it? Are all of DC’s hottest restaurants now just popular as places to surreptitiously watch people pee? I’m just confused as to the thought process where someone in a position of power at a restaurant saw the sign and thought to themselves “yes, this is a good idea for my business. I would like to put this on my bathroom” and I’m drawing blanks here.

    • Right?! Ridiculous! Just seems like something a dumb fratboy thought was “funny” and “edgy” and hasn’t given a second thought to because this sort of thinly-veiled misogyny and dismissiveness is so ingrained by now.

    • +1 to “I’m honestly curious how he thought this was ‘tongue-in-cheek’? Is bathroom voyeurism considered edgy and I’ve missed it?”

    • I’ve oddly enough seen this exact sign at cafes overseas. It’s a weird concept.

      • jim_ed

        Honestly this feels like something the Germans would be into.

        • WTF? Why are you slamming Germans? Totally out of line and unnecessary.

          • “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no! And it ain’t over now.”

          • Mouthing to DCD “Germans”?

          • @Elvis’s Mom: Forget it, he’s rolling.
            Quick poll – how many regular members of the PoPulace were alive when that movie came out? I’m guessing well under 50%.

          • For anyone else who was wondering what that quotation (“Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? …”) was from, Google says it’s from “Animal House” (1978).

          • I Dont Get It

            I remember it. Plus it was part of the Don and Mike Show closing for years.

          • Yes, I was very alive when AH came out. I’m very sad that textdoc had to look it up. That movie should be required viewing in High School to prep you for college.

            There was a documentary on “The making of…” a few years back and it was excellent. I loved hearing from the stars what it was like to film!

            Also, please lay off the Germans. Vee are gut peoples.

          • justinbc

            Even if you weren’t alive when Animal House was released, you surely couldn’t have missed it in the numerous recaps of this era of movies that glorified campus rape culture.

    • HaileUnlikely

      I was acquainted with Max roughly half a lifetime ago (in college), have never been to Proof, did not know that Max was the the owner, or even that he was in DC or that he was in the restaurant business for that matter. Anyway, I was never close friends with him, but have never had anything against him either. He was sure one odd duck, though, to the degree that he stood out as such in a college caricatured by other colleges for being full of weird people. Personally, I think his apology can be taken at face value, even if it seems unlikely and most people may reasonably be suspicious or outright reject it. I’m sure that Max had absolutely no intention of encouraging, promoting, or making light of sexual violence, and that he intended for this to be funny in some weird Max-specific way in which what is funny to Max and what is funny to most people don’t always overlap.

      • This is interesting, and mitigates things somewhat.

      • I just realized that I too, know the family (though rather tangentially). I can’t imagine there was any ill-intent with the original sign.
        “He was sure one odd duck, though, to the degree that he stood out as such in a college caricatured by other colleges for being full of weird people.”
        This made me laugh. Art majors, amirite?

        • HaileUnlikely

          I happened to be an engineering major at one of the big-name liberal arts schools (their engineering program was actually quite good, though definitely not what the school was/is known for. It’s mainly just known for being weird.). Max definitely was not an engineering major. We honestly didn’t seem to have a whole lot in common.

      • “to the degree that he stood out as such in a college caricatured by other colleges for being full of weird people.”
        OK, now you have to tell us. I really have no idea.

        • binntp

          Right? I was gonna guess Hampshire College until HaileUnlikely said he majored in engineering…

        • HaileUnlikely

          Brown. You knew that already.

          • Now that you say it, I probably did.

          • HaileUnlikely

            I distinctly remember that it came up when my alma mater was in the news for students complaining that they were too busy fighting against the forces of evil to do their school work (article complete with bizarre quote from student who uses pronouns “xe” and “xyr” in place of “he” and “she”) and you posted a rant about it

          • Me? Rant? I don’t know, that seems out of character.
            (But those students were ridiculous, and you have a memory like an elephant.)

          • HaileUnlikely

            If you opened up the pages of a major national newspaper and found an article like that about the weird students at your alma mater who couldn’t attend to xyr studies because xe were too busy fighting the forces of evil, I bet you’d remember it too 😉

      • Also, he took over from his brother, who passed away. Who I totally can see putting up the sign and thinking it hilarious.

  • Word of wisdom to those who think this still isn’t enough: You’re not going to like what you see in the men’s room at Proof.

    • What’s in the men’s room?

      • I’ve never been to Proof, but according to the Yelp reviews: “The bathrooms in the restaurant (for the straight men will titillate and exhilarate!) and another reviewer asks “who puts porn in the bathrooms?” Meanwhile, a female reviewer says the ladies room decor “looked like “Barbie’s First Brothel”.

        • That’s not that unusual is it? I’m pretty sure the men’s rooms at Estadio and Diplomate also feature pictures of naked women, no? That seems to me in a different category than the sign in question here.

          • There are naked women in the ladies room at Le Diplomat, but it’s not porny, it’s antique (art nouveau?) pin-up stuff, IIRC. My kids don’t even blink.

          • Note – Estadio is part of the same restaurant group as Proof, along with doi moi and 2 birds, one stone.

          • Agreed. Though I wouldn’t categorize what’s in the Proof men’s room as “porny” either. It’s erotic black and white photography, as I recall. It’s not explicit.

        • I don’t understand — if the bathrooms are unisex, then how is there a “men’s room”?

          • They aren’t unisex. That was misconstrued… which made this picture even weirder.

          • Really? So this was on the lades room door, but men have a separate restroom? Now I’m just confused (and a little more skeptical of the “He’s just weird, not harm was meant” conclusion drawn by Haile and others).

          • This is outside both of the restrooms, telling people which direction to walk towards to get to the restrooms… which are separate.

            I also don’t think that “he’s just weird” is a good excuse for someone who had gotten complaints about it before, took it down and then put it back up. At that point you have to know it is causing harm.

  • Wait, people still eat at proof? Their food has gone down hill dramatically since they stopped making things in house. Cheese is not good, and they charge the same for 1/2 the amount of charcuterie as they did years ago. I didn’t even know that place was still open except for maybe people from VA going to Caps games.

  • As I was saying earlier today in the original thread: “I’m glad they apologized and removed the sign… but I have to say it sounds more like ‘Sorry you feel that way’ than “We see now that yeah, the sign is kinda creepy and we’re genuinely sorry.'”

    • i agree, but also he’s a restaurant owner, not a person in public relations who does this at a living. The apology wasnt perfect, but we’ve seen a lot worse. Let’s see what happens next

      • Wait, one needs to be a public relations professional to know that joking about sexual harassment/ assault is not funny or appropriate for a business?
        I’m not a pulmonologist, but I know that smoking is bad for lungs.

  • Let’s parse that apology:
    “We want to apologize for offending anyone with something that we think is pretty inconsequential. We’ve been doing this for a long time, so we’re completely mystified as to why anyone would object. Customers should focus on how the sign makes US feel (tongue-in-cheek) rather than on how it makes THEM feel. We promise, though, that we’re good people; see how we support something that everyone else supports (equal rights)? We have removed the sign and apologize for any offense we have caused.”

  • For a lot more on Proof’s bathrooms but no mention of the infamous sign, see (maybe NSFW):

    • Wow. Twice the Proof owner mentions “all the bitching” from women about the men’s room photos. He’s clearly soooo concerned with their point of view. (Also, apparently the women’s room is just … pink.)

      • TW, the article linked above is quoting the current owner’s late father, Mark, who passed away 3 years ago.

      • The women’s restroom has wallpaper with a pink pattern of just women’s legs and butts, the legs are wearing thigh high tights. Go to Proof’s Yelp page and search for the word “bathroom” in their reviews. You’ll see pix of the wallpaper there. You’ll also find complaints about the sign for which they are now apologizing.

  • Sophomoric sign, rightly removed. Let’s move on with our lives now.

    • yep, this is how I feel too. I can’t get all worked up about someone apologizing and doing exactly what was asked of him.

      I’m a woman. It is unlikely that he understands the full extent of how offensive a sign like that is and how detrimental it is for all of us as women and as a society. But I feel like education and growth come with grace, not with continually berating the same guy for the same offense that has now been corrected. Move on and find the next problem and let this lesson sink in to this guy and to everyone else who is watching. I think this type of social lesson takes persistent reminders, but there is progress being made.
      P.S. I can’t tell you how pleased I am to see so many men on this thread who immediately understood the problem with signs like this and stated so. Thank you.

      • Honest question:

        If this was a woman peering over the stall at a man, would you be equally offended?

        • To be honest, I think I would be baffled by it and I just wouldn’t understand it because it’s a behavior that I don’t equate with any woman I have ever known. Also, women typically have smaller stature and less strength, so violence against women by men is much more common and historically has been an accepted behavior. So, no I probably wouldn’t have been EQUALLY offended, but I would still think it’s stupid and inappropriate. And because I respect both men AND women, I would choose not to frequent a restaurant that doesn’t share that respect for ALL human beings.

          It’s not pearl-clutching that I’m experiencing. It’s a general distaste for someone who isn’t respectful. So I’ll stay away, I won’t be shy about the reasons, but I’m not going to go back with a pitchfork, because I feel as if some progress has been made by the owner’s acknowledgement and by the publicity surrounding this sign. I hope I never see that sign again or any other like it (aimed at either sex).

          • Thanks for the response. This isn’t a behavior I equate with any men I know either, so to me this is a (not that) funny sign.

            Your take (stop patronizing the establishment) is the correct one. But if the owners of proof want to have inappropriate signs up, that is their decision, just as it is your decision not to patronize their restaurant.

          • “So, no I probably wouldn’t have been EQUALLY offended, but I would still think it’s stupid and inappropriate.”
            I am a man, and would feel the same way if presented with the reverse scenario.
            I would also think of a great line from The Adventures of Ford Fairlane appearing in a thought bubble above the woman’s head: “That looks like a penis, only smaller!”

      • Good thoughts, I appreciate your point of view.

      • ah

        Very sensible attitude, navyard

  • Better than ignoring the issue, I suppose, but it doesn’t read particularly well — doesn’t seem super sincere or genuinely apologetic. Mentioning the duration the sign has been up is unhelpful. Failing to indicate that you actually understand the offense caused is also problematic. Lost my business. So frustrated that there are so many people who are so flippant about how women are treated. As a woman, I know my voice doesn’t matter much to some. I hope my dollars do.

  • People make bad jokes. Some are worse and more hurtful than others.

    I think what’s important is that you learn from them and grow. I’d much rather educate people on why something they said or did was harmful, and have them apologize and learn to never do it again, than vilify them forever over it. It’s far more productive.

    I’ve made insensitive jokes in the past, as I’m sure all of us have. When people just called me names over it, I just got defensive and still didn’t think I was wrong. But when others explained to me why the thing I said (which I thought wasn’t a big deal) was actually hurtful and disrespectful, I learned from that and haven’t made similar comments going forward.

    Life is all about learning and growing. Let’s see if they do that from here, not rip their apology.

  • justinbc

    For the record, I retract any leeway I might have given Proof yesterday. This is just stupid. Their intent and apology, both stupid. I’ve personally never noticed this sign on my visits there, but I really don’t pay that much attention when going to a bathroom. I’m surprised, knowing the people I know who’ve worked and managed there, that this lasted for 10 years if their intent was as the owner states. I’m not going to boycott a place because of a poorly thought out sign, but I certainly won’t be going out of my way to go there either with all of the other great options in DC.

  • I mean, I’d much rather an apology that reads “the sign was indeed offensive and we messed up” than “we apologize for offending anyone”… but I assume that this person hasn’t read all those How To Write A Real Apology 101 articles that pop up online (they should!).

    Overall I think this is an adequate response–at least is was professional and they took the sign down (it’s kind of sad that my standards are that low). I’m almost a little disappointed that they didn’t get more defensive, solely because I’m still genuinely curious about what on Earth motivated this sign, and want to hear them try to explain.

  • How the fuck did no one just rip this shitty-ass laminated sign down from the wall? It’s a lot easier and effective than confronting the asshole who put it up to begin with or making a social media campaign.

    • justinbc

      Yeah I wondered that as well, especially one of the many women who work there, who would presumably be offended by it on a daily basis.

      • This is where the more insidious reach of sexism comes in. Most women (myself included) are hesitant to complain about something like that, particularly in the workplace, particularly if we’re in the minority, because we don’t want to be seen as not having a sense of humor or as overreacting. I’m not saying it’s right, or that it’s good, just that it’s a reality. My old boss in NY had a nude over his desk for years that I had to stare at whenever I was taking notes. When I said something he threatened to get something “worse”. And I needed the money, so I kept my mouth shut. And no, he did not have orange hair…

  • There’s an awful lot of projection going on here.

    Since its all make believe, 1.) the woman is still clothed, maybe they’re on an obstacle course, and 2.) if it is voyeurism, maybe its consensual and they’re both into that sort of thing? Has anyone bothered to ask the pink woman pictured?

    We can all rant and rave about how it perpetuates sexual violence, but what this sort of outrage also does is promote the “because I see an image one way, that must be the way it is”. Its a big world out there and not everyone sees everything the same way. This outrage is just an example of the truly embedded perceptions of gender roles (men are the predators, women are the victims) and the puritanical view of sexuality (if there’s even any sexuality at all, which is a total projection). If this sign was in France, people would shrug and say “oh those french, they’re so free spirited”.

    For the record, I see the sign as sophomoric – but encouraging sexual violence is a reach. Glad they took it down, because I agree with most of the posters that at a minimum its in bad taste… but thats because I’m a sexually repressed American.

    • I must say that I thought this who thing was much ado…
      And now that I’ve read your burning hot take I see how dismissive attitudes like yours serve to perpetuate bad behavior.
      Enjoy your obstacle course.