Several restaurants dump Mister Ice over its ties to RFRA law co-author Sen. Scott Schneider
Opponents of the Indiana 'religious freedom' act want to hit one of its chief legislative authors, state Sen. Scott Schneider, in the pocketbook. They've launched a boycott of his family's business, Mister Ice Indianapolis, one of the largest suppliers of ice machines in Central Indiana.
The 50-year-old ice machine distributor is owned by the family of Schneider, an Indianapolis Republican. He's one of the prime authors of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act measure that's come under withering public attack since Gov. Mike Pence signed it into law last week.
RFRA opponents are calling for a boycott of Mister Ice, using Facebook posts and other ways to spread the word. Several restaurateurs — their number is unknown — have joined the boycott and notified Mister Ice they will drop their ice machine leases or maintenance contracts. They include the 11-restaurant group Patachou Inc. and Some Guys Pizza, which has two stores, in Carmel and on Indianapolis' Northside.
Schneider did not respond to several requests for comment. In a phone interview, Schneider's father, William Schneider, the company founder and president, downplayed the boycott and said he didn't know how many customers have canceled contracts for ice machines.
"There hasn't been enough for me to get that concerned," said Schneider, who was a City-County councilman for 28 years. As for the impact on his business he said, "I didn't even figure it would be a boycott. I never thought it would get to that but apparently it has."
The general manager of Some Guys, Charles Sterne, said he's severing the pizza seller's 25-year business relationship with Mister Ice over Scott Schneider's role in crafting the RFRA legislation.
Sterne said he worries the act opens doors for businesses or individuals to legally refuse to serve gays by citing religious objections.
"We have gay family members and friends and a good number of my customers are gay. We just thought it's not good business to do business with someone who is legislating something...we consider hateful."
Sterne said he called Mister Ice to cancel his ice machine contract and ended up talking to William Schneider. "He tried to tell me I didn't understand the bill," said Sterne, who said he attended a Statehouse rally last weekend to protest the new law. "I told him, 'We have some strongly held convictions of our own we are acting on.'"
Martha Hoover, president of Patachou Inc., said she wants to replace all the Mister Ice machines at her 11 restaurants once the lease contracts expire.
"Mister Ice is absolutely going to get phased out. It's costing the company real money but we are willing to spend it" to bring in a new ice machine vendor, she said.
"I'm really conflicted over severing ties with Mister Ice, a company that's served us well over 25 years. But Scott's deep involvement with this legislation is very troubling. The hospitality industry is the hand that feeds him."
Hoover said she doesn't think Schneider understands "how visceral the issue is."
The page for a Facebook community calling itself "Indiana businesses that discriminate using RFRA" lists 19 Indiana legislators who voted for the act along with the businesses they work for or own, and encourages followers to boycott them. The page has 524 likes.