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April 27, 2021

Transphobic incident at N.J. restaurant results in school district's investigation of vice principal's involvement

The confrontation began with a diner and her husband; it was recorded on video at Fred & Ethel’s Lantern Light and Tavern in Galloway Township.

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Transphobic Incident Galloway Street View/Google

Fred and Ethel's Lantern Light Restaurant and Tavern said everybody is welcome in the restaurant, which is located in the Smithville section of Galloway Township. A patron's transphobic outburst was filmed and shared online after an incident on April 24, 2021.

A peaceful afternoon at a restaurant near Atlantic City on Saturday turned ugly when a woman's complaints about a transgender woman sharing the bathroom with her led to a dispute — reportedly ending with the woman's husband spilling beer on other patrons.

That man, a vice principal at Neptune Middle School in Monmouth County, now could face disciplinary action, officials at the school district where he works said.

The incident happened at Fred & Ethel’s Lantern Light and Tavern in Smithville, a neighborhood in Galloway Township, first reported.

Problems began after Lisa Smurro, a diner at the restaurant, loudly and repeatedly complained about having to use the bathroom with a transgender woman. Videos uploaded to Facebook by a witness, who was dining outdoors, show portions of Smurro's angry reaction to the experience.

UPDATE: meet Lisa and Mike, everybody If your grandparents were dressed like children in Historic Smithville this afternoon check this out! Let’s see if we can get some ID on these monsters

Posted by Peach CC on Saturday, April 24, 2021

"A man just went in the women's bathroom, and that's not right!" Smurro shouted, insisting over and over that the person in the bathroom was a man.

New Jersey's anti-discrimination laws allow people to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identities or gender expressions.

While Smurro ranted other restaurant customers grew uncomfortable with her transphobic complaints, leading to a back-and-forth seen in the Facebook videos.

Her husband, Michael Smurro, the vice principal, apparently became angry with the other diners filming the scene. He approached the woman capturing the video as the couple got up to leave the restaurant. Michael Smurro then tossed beer in the direction of the other people and dared them to meet him in the parking lot, presumably to fight.

A restaurant server had attempted to intervene and communicate with Lisa Smurro before things escalated to that point.

"Should I go get my manager?" the server asked.

"She's a man. She's a man. She's a man," Lisa Smurro responded. "She was a man. She was a man p***ing in the woman's bathroom."

"That's not my issue. That's not your issue," the server replied. "Please remove yourself, or I'm going to have to go get my manager."

The transgender woman Smurro complained about is not shown in the video.

In the aftermath of the incident, Neptune Township School District superintendent Tami Crader told that the incident with Smurro and his wife is under investigation. Crader declined to say whether any disciplinary action had been taken, but said the district will not tolerate violent or discriminatory behavior.

Smurro told both BreakingAC and that when she later contacted the restaurant on Saturday, she received an apology and was told the establishment had separate bathrooms that could be used by transgender people. She also blamed the situation on her and her husband being videotaped rather than her transphobic outburst.

Tony Coppola, the owner of Fred & Ethel’s, clarified to BreakingAC that the tavern has a bathroom that can be used by families or for privacy, but that the separate restroom doesn't have specific signage for transgender people.

“Everyone’s welcome in our restaurant,” Coppola said. “Hate’s got no place in our society. There’s too much hate right now.”