SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Feb. 19, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — A man who said he was refused service because of his race is taking legal action against Willie’s Lounge in Salt Lake City.
Falaniko Iata Maea, also known as Frank, initially posted a video to Facebook following the incident on Tuesday, Feb. 16 (see below). The post accompanying the video said: “Pure Ignorance! Last night a few of us visited WILLIES Lounge for the first time and after our ID’s were checked the bartender Alisha said we cannot serve ‘POLYNESIANS.’ I was taken back by her comment. It’s 2016. ‘Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.’ Shame on you WILLIES! Please Share!#PureIgnorance.”
Maea was at the bar at 1716 Main St. with his cousin, Setefano Folau Wily, known as Stephen. The men say the bartender checked their IDs and asked them to leave because of their race, just seconds after they walked into the bar.
Willie’s released a written statement to its Facebook page, then emailed a further statement to news media Friday afternoon.
The statement reads, in full: “Following an incident on Feb. 16 at Willie’s Lounge in Salt Lake City, business owner Geremy Cloyd issued the following statement.
Most importantly, I’d like to offer my most sincere apology to the patrons who were refused service at my place of business on Tuesday. The statement made by my employee was entirely inappropriate, hurtful and in no way a reflection of the way we conduct business at either of the Willie’s establishments in Salt Lake City.
I’d also like to extend my apologies to our Polynesian community, all of Willie’s customers, my friends and neighbors and the residents of Salt Lake City. I completely understand the widespread concern that has been raised by how these customers were treated, and am committed to taking actions to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.
I am meeting with leaders from our Polynesian community today (Friday) to discuss what steps can be taken to both address concerns and begin the process of closing the rift that this incident has created. I am currently reviewing our employee policies and have also begun contacting local resources to help create a compulsory sensitivity training program for every Willie’s employee.
In the ten years I’ve owned Willie’s I have worked to make my business a place that is safe, fun and welcoming for all patrons and believe we have been very successful in achieving this. The recent incident highlights that there is critical work to do to get my team back on track in pursuit of this goal and I am committed to doing everything I can to guarantee this happens.
Again, I am deeply sorry for the hurt and concern that has resulted from the actions that took place at my business.”
The statement goes on to say: “Geremy Cloyd is a decorated veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and has owned and operated Willie’s Lounge since 2006. He is also a former student at Utah State University and an active supporter and participant in local community groups. Geremy recently expanded his business with Big Willie’s, located at the former Batters Up Sports Bar venue on Main Street.”
Gephardt Daily spoke with Jessica Andrew, business partner of Maea’s lawyer, Dustin Lance. She believes they have a case against the establishment based on racial discrimination.
She said they met with Maea Thursday and are gathering information to prepare a case.
Because of what is known as a public accommodations law, she said you can refuse service to anyone, but not because of the race, their ancestry, their national origin, their sex or their religion.
“We intend to take a stand against unacceptable behavior,” Andrews said.
Gephardt Daily will have more news on this developing story as it becomes available.
Pure Ignorance! Last night a few of us visited WILLIES Lounge for the first time and after our ID's were checked the bartender Alisha said we cannot serve "POLYNESIANS" I was taken back by her comment. It's 2016 " Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity" Shame on you WILLIES! Please Share! #PureIgnorance with Setefano Folau Wily
Posted by Falaniko Iata Maea on Wednesday, February 17, 2016