NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Thursday, February 18, 2016, 4:41 PM
A Salt Lake City bartender who told locals “I can’t serve Polynesians” prompted an outcry and an apology by the bar’s owner Thursday.
Frank Maea said he and a friend were turned away Tuesday night at Willie’s Lounge after the bartender checked his ID and asked if he was Polynesian — a Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.
She told them, “I can’t serve Polynesians.” Maea later posted a cell phone video from the S. Main St. bar, calling the rejection “pure ignorance.”
“It’s 2016. Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity,” he wrote. “Shame on you WILLIE’S!”
Bar owner Geremy Cloyd didn’t question the account.
Frank Maea said he and a friend were turned away at a Salt Lake City bar for being Polynesian.
“She said that,” Cloyd told the Daily News. “She knew it was wrong. She tried to correct it. That’s not why she didn’t serve them. She serves Polynesians every day.”
Cloyd, a former Marine who has owned Willie’s Lounge for 10 years, took down its Facebook page after he received death threats, he said. An initial response posted there said the bar reserves the right to refuse service to “certain groups of people.”
But Cloyd said the response referred to people — of any race — who make the bartender uncomfortable, or large groups of drunk men descending on two female bartenders. His statements didn’t pass muster with several friends of Maea, who commented on his 10-second video, which had been shared over 4,000 times by Thursday afternoon.
“You can’t ban a group of people because you think something may happen,” one user wrote. “If that’s the case, don’t serve anyone!”
“Willie’s likes to racially profile their patrons,” said another post cited by KSL-TV. “They don’t allow certain people of color into their establishment.”
The owner of Salt Lake City dive Willie’s Lounge has apologized and will meet with members of the local Polynesian community to discuss the incident, he said.
Cloyd said many online critics have never been to the bar, and said he’s meeting with members of the local Polynesian community Friday to discuss the matter. A woman of Polynesian descent seen briefly in the viral video is a regular at Willie’s, he said.
Cloyd also held a special training session for the bar’s 12 employees. A local alternative newspaper, the Salt Lake City Weekly, gave Willie’s its 2014 “Best Dive Bar” award, noting a “diverse mix” of patrons.
“I’m currently at my bar with four different races,” Cloyd said. “We’re not treating anybody any differently than we ever have.”
Maea didn’t immediately return a request for comment Thursday. He told KUTV he accepts Cloyd’s apology, but doesn’t plan on going back to the bar.
“This is wrong. Should they be punished? Of course they should,” Maea said. “We should not spend our hard-earned dollars to go there.”
Geremy Cloyd said patrons of all races have always come out to the bar and are continuing to do so despite the online outcry.
Though Utah is 86% white, nearly 27,000 state residents identify as Polynesian, recent census figures show. Utah’s Polynesian population is fourth-largest in the country behind California, Hawaii and Washington.
With News Wire Services.
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