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Bagatelle Cancels SeaWorld Party With Live Penguins Following Outcry

By Danielle Tcholakian | January 14, 2014 12:54pm
 Pete and Penny Penguin were the controversial guests slated for SeaWorld's 50th anniversary party at Bagatelle.
Pete and Penny Penguin were the controversial guests slated for SeaWorld's 50th anniversary party at Bagatelle.
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YouTube/Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA

MANHATTAN — Meatpacking District hotspot Bagatelle has canceled a SeaWorld party scheduled for Tuesday night — after an announcement that the bash would include two live penguins sparked an outcry from animal rights activists.

Bagatelle's co-owner Remi Laba told DNAinfo Tuesday morning that the high-end restaurant had canceled the party Monday evening, shortly after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals announced plans to protest outside. 

Laba declined to comment on the reason for the cancellation, but he said in an email that the reservation had come through "a third party agency" and Bagatelle "didn't know the content of the party until 72hrs ago."

Bagatelle's Facebook page was bombarded with comments Monday slamming the restaurant for working with SeaWorld. Many mentioned the documentary "Blackfish," which accused the aquarium and amusement park of abusing killer whales they use in performances.

In an email to PETA on Monday evening, Laba said Bagatelle's team had been caught off guard by SeaWorld's plans to bring penguins to the restaurant.

"We were very disturbed by what you told us and have let the reps of sea world [sic] that no live animals will be let in our establishment and that we will cancel their event if this was meant to take place," Laba wrote in an email released by PETA. 

Bagatelle staffers wrote an email to PETA on Monday adding that the event was canceled, and added added that they would appreciate the animal rights agency spreading the word on "how good Bagatelle was to your cause."

"We are not involved in this and we did all we could to do what was right in our hearts," Laba said in an email, after initially trying to pacify PETA by promising to exclude live animals, but go forward with the event.

After noting that canceling the event cost the restaurant "a tremendous amount of money," Laba wrote, "We now hope that you will, in return, demonstrate that you are appreciative of our gesture," according to emails released by PETA.

PETA representatives told DNAinfo New York they were grateful for Bagatelle's choice.

"We are very happy that Bagatelle made the decision to do the right thing and cancel the event with SeaWorld, and that they chose kindness over profit," PETA spokeswoman Ashley Byrne said.

SeaWorld released a statement accusing PETA of "attempting to disrupt tonight’s event through harassment and misinformation."

"The reception has been cancelled. This is the right thing to do out of concern for our friends, guests and patrons who planned to attend," SeaWorld added, saying the penguins travel frequently for events and are well cared for.

"Such public appearances do not cause stress as suggested," SeaWorld's statement added, "It’s disappointing that PETA and other animal rights activist groups, which have no relevant experience with these animals, would make up baseless facts to advance extreme and uninformed agendas."