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Polynesian man kicked out of bar for being Polynesian, bar owner defends policy

Posted at 1:30 PM, Feb 19, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY — The phone in Willie’s bar in Salt Lake City is ringing off the hook: 500 calls by noon and 1,000 by the dinner hour. The calls are angry, demanding answers as to why two Polynesian men were kicked out. The bar, voted the best “Dive Bar” year after year in Salt Lake City, is facing accusations of racial profiling after kicking two men out without cause.

The incident happened Tuesday night, and both sides agree the facts of what went down.

Frank Maea and Stephen Wily walked into the Willie’s Lounge, where Wily said the employees “…checked our ID’s, and after that, they asked us if we were Polynesian. We said yes.”

That’s when the men were told they wouldn’t be served.

Maea said  they were calm and “asked why?” The server replied that “it is my job, I can’t, or I will get fired.”

Shocked, the men shot a quick cell phone video before leaving. You can hear Frank repeat what just happened, while pointing that camera at the bartender. The short clip posted online has gone viral with nearly 2,000 shares and tens of thousands of views.

“I have never been treated like that, never,” he said.

The friends spoke out so this will never happen again.

“This is wrong. Should they be punished? Of course they should,” one said. “We should not spend our hard earned dollars to go there.”

Bar owner Geremy Cloyd responded on Facebook page:

We’ve already had a few posts about an incident that happened at our bar last night and we want to address it head on. Due to many issues we’ve had with certain groups of people we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. We don’t do this without just cause.

We want our business to be a place where anyone can come and have drinks in a SAFE ENVIRONMENT. We do everything we can to make sure our CUSTOMERS and EMPLOYEES ARE SAFE.

Just to give you an idea of issues we’ve dealt with in the past that we are trying to prevent from happening in the future – it’s bar fights, knocked over tables, bringing their own drinks in, causing a huge scene when being asked to leave, refusing to leave, spitting on bartenders, throwing beers at bartenders and other customers, and the list goes on and on and on.

On a typical day we have customers from 21 to 81 years old, every race imaginable, rich and poor, liberal and conservative. We do our best to provide a happy environment and make sure all patrons have a good experience.

Unfortunately, we make mistakes and get it wrong once in awhile. We will gladly admit our mistakes and try to make it right.

AGAIN, we have a right to refuse service to anyone and do this only to keep our business SAFE for Customers and Employees.

He elaborated and said he “did not kick anyone out, my staff did, I take full responsibility for that.” Cloyd explained that for “unknown intimidating-looking males, the bartenders have the right to say no to, period.”

The men said they had merely walked in and asked for a drink.

Cloyd said they kick people out all the time.

“White people too, you just don’t hear about them,” Cloyd said. “Whether they are Polynesian, just got out of jail, have neck tattoos look like they are hooked on drugs, across all spectrums, not just Polynesians. It just so happens, our problem has been with Polynesians.”

The friends and cousins said bars should have the right to kick people out, but only if they cause problems.

“I don’t know what happened in the past but it doesn’t mean everyone should be labeled that way.”

Cloyd said he was worried about business. He said he tried to offer great customer service, including rides home for patrons too drunk to drive. He said he wanted to make this right.

To the men who were told to leave his bar, “I would love to meet you and buy you dinner, shake your hand and look you in the eye and say look I have nothing against you personally, I am sorry this ever happened.”

“Even with the apology,” Maea said he “will accept it” but coming back or facing the bar owner “is out of the question.”

While the owner apologized, he said his staff can still kick out groups of Polynesian men at night if they are unknown to the bar. If they are known, they are given “special treatment” and can stay.

He said it was about safety and that’s why so many people of all races come to his bar. He said they know it will be a clean and safe experience.

Despite the apology, the Polynesian community and others upset over the situation are talking online about meeting in mass and dropping in on the bar.