The man who told Korean American entrepreneur Sophia Chang to “go back to Wuhan” while out having lunch with her sister has been allegedly identified as James Hilbrant of Orange County, California.
According to his LinkedIn page, Hilbrant works as a “financial professional” for Prudential Advisors and can “provide assistance on a range of financial issues-from evaluating insurance needs to helping clients grow their assets.” On Tuesday, Sept. 15, LinkedIn and Facebook profiles associated with Hilbrant were deactivated.
The incident happened at Bluewater Grill in Newport Beach, California over the weekend when Chang was having lunch with her sister. Hilbrant made eye contact with Chang while he was heading to the bathroom and allegedly told her to “go back to Wuhan.”
“Once he returned, we asked him why he would say that and he goes ‘I don’t speak Chinese, I don’t know what you’re talking about,’” Chang said in her Instagram post. “I’m so disgusted. If you see people practicing this sort of behavior. REPORT THEM.”
Hilbrant was reportedly asked by a staff member to leave the restaurant but didn’t leave immediately.
“I believe he personally knew the waitress who was serving him, because she gave him a hug before they left,”Chang said. “They were chatting for a bit so it took awhile for them to leave.”
In a statement posted on Instagram, Bluewater Grill said they “immediately addressed the situation with the customer and asked them to leave.”
“We understand that some feel there was a lack of urgency in removing this patron from the premises,” the statement continued, “However, the safety of all our customers and staff is our utmost concern and we wanted to make sure this situation did not escalate and become hostile.”
Bluewater Grill continued to note that it took the customer 10 minutes before he could pay for his bill and leave the premises as well as the hug that happened between him and one of the staff.
“Within 10 minutes the person paid their bill and left the premises. There is also mention of the customer hugging our employee, and we would like to make it clear that this was unsolicited and occurred before our employee was made aware of the situation.”
“After the patron left, we made sure that our guests were comfortable and well taken care of. The patron in question is no longer welcome at Bluewater Grill.”
Bluewater Grill, which has been in business for 24 years, said they pride themselves “on our customer service, diverse staff and commitment to a safe environment free of racism or harassment.”
“We do not condone prejudice or racism in any form. This includes remarks made by customers which we cannot control. We take matters like this seriously and are disgusted that any guest would be subjected to an insensitive remark by another guest.”
Prudential Advisors told NextShark, “Prudential has zero tolerance for discrimination and takes these allegations very seriously. This matter will be investigated to the fullest extent possible and appropriate action will be taken, as warranted.”