Rebel flag controversy moves to popular north Atlanta restaurant

When the doors reopen at the OK Cafe, the menu may have to share attention with the walls.

Will the carving of Georgia’s 1956 flag, complete with the controversial Confederate battle emblem, hang once again in the eatery known as a favorite spot for movers and shakers?

Efforts to remove the Rebel emblem have stepped up since a white supremacist who displayed the flag on social media was charged last month in the killing of nine black worshippers at a Charleston, S.C., church.

Bobby Kahn, who helped bring about the retirement of the 1956 flag as the chief of staff to Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes, said he urged the manager to take the painted carving bearing the emblem down during his last visit to the restaurant.

“They told me it was artwork and that they weren’t going to take it down,” Kahn said. “They need to change that flag.”

A perfect opportunity, Kahn believes, would be the reopening of the north Atlanta restaurant, which was gutted by an electrical fire in December.

The restaurant’s rehabilitation has been plagued by delays, but it’s expected to open its doors within months.

Susan DeRose, the restaurant’s owner, said she hasn’t decided how she will redecorate the restaurant, which she said has “always stood with an open mind and an open heart.” But she said Kahn’s protest will have nothing to do with her decision.

“It’s a part of my history, and my history has absolutely nothing to do with prejudice against anyone,” said DeRose, who is from Athens. “I was around when that flag flew on the day that Martin Luther King Jr. was buried. I also was around when women and blacks didn’t have the same civil rights under the American flag. Does Bobby want to change that flag, too?”

She added: “If Bobby has an idea what color I should make the booths and the tables, he should call and let me know.”