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Men say staff at SLC bar told them they ‘can’t serve Polynesians’

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UPDATE: The owner of the bar has now apologized and promised to change company policy as well as provide sensitivity training to prevent future incidents like this one.

(Note: A video previously embedded with this story showed the faces of several bar patrons not involved in the incident, and FOX 13 has complied with a request to remove that footage. A version of that video with those faces blurred out is available in our updated story.)

Previous story continues below:

SALT LAKE CITY — A video is sparking a lot of anger from people online, and two Polynesian men say the footage was shot seconds after they were refused service because of their race.

They say it all happened Tuesday night at Willies Lounge on Main Street in Salt Lake City.

The two men had never been to the bar before, and they said that first trip there will be their last. The men say the bartender checked their IDs and asked them to leave because of their race.

“She looked up and said, ‘I can’t serve Polynesians’ and I was like… ‘You can’t what?’” Frank Maea said.

He and his cousin Stephen Wily say it happened seconds after they walked into Willies Lounge.

“We were just in awe, everyone in the bar was,” Wily said.

The men say others at the bar spoke up.

“One woman said, ‘Wait, did I hear this correctly? Did you just say you can’t serve these guys because they’re Polynesian,’” Maea said.

They say the bartender told them it was company policy. But the bar’s owner says it was all a misunderstanding.

“I’ve told all my bartenders if groups of unknown people, including Polynesians but not limited to, that we don’t know come in late at night: They don’t have to serve them,” said Geremy Cloyd, Owner of Willies and Big Willies in Salt Lake City.

But Frank and Stephen say that’s not what happened to them.

“They called me and said we just screened someone,” Cloyd said. “We probably should have served them. I came flying down saying, ‘Hey let me buy you dinner, or something’… they were already gone.”

Frank and Stephen say they didn’t have a chance to stick around because they were kicked out.

“They said, ‘You guys got to leave now’ and we left,” Maea said.

Some bar patrons walked out with them.

“We swallowed our pride, walked out with our heads held high,” Wily said.

Frustrated and appalled by what happened, they took to social media.

“It’s sad,” Maea said. “This is 2016. Just the ignorance behind it all, just being approached like that was just mind-blowing.”

The video is getting thousands of shares, and some people who were scheduled to perform at Willies have canceled shows because of the incident.The bar owner says it was all a misunderstanding.

“We messed up last night, a lot of times we get it right, last night we didn’t,” Cloyd said.

Frank and Stephen say they are now in contact with some civil rights groups.

A post on the bar’s Facebook page defended a policy of denying service to “certain groups,” saying in part: “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.”

124 comments

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  • Cathryn Day

    Bizarre! Since when are 2 people a ‘group’? They mention Polynesians specifically in their policy…Really? Is there a history of marauding bands of Polynesians causing trouble in Salt Lake City?

    • Chadd

      I watched an episode of gangland where there is a blood or crip presence in SLC mainly Polynesian. Just a TV show though.

      • maria

        How the hell is that relevant to the situation? These men weren’t even thugs or affiliated with gangs. They’re just getting drinks like every other person in there. Please don’t say a damn thing if you ain’t got a damn thing to say relevant.

  • Yeah, NOPE!

    More than a few people need to look up and read, although, I am uncertain comprehension would accompany reading, what racism is.

    • noguly

      Totally agree with you. He is not sorry to those guys, he seems angry because he got in the trouble that he set up for

  • James

    “I’ve told all my bartenders if groups of unknown people, including Polynesians but not limited to, that we don’t know come in late at night: They don’t have to serve them,” said Geremy Cloyd, Owner of Willies and Big Willies in Salt Lake City.

    I’m just trying to figure out why this is even a statement that you would even say to your employees. This doesn’t make it any better.

  • Kilikina

    I feel she’s full of crap! I am from. HAWAII AND PART POLYNESIAN. SERM AS THO’ she was profiling! They may look black americans but so what! Their people and a person like her, but not as ignorant… Good way to lose customers and business get closed down! No business, no profits!!! If she’s an employee, Fire her a&&!!!

  • Tony

    “I’ve told all my bartenders if groups of unknown people, including Polynesians but not limited to, that we don’t know come in late at night: They don’t have to serve them.” In other words, anyone who’s skin is darker than, say, Julianne Moore.

  • Dee D.

    Ok, I was at the bar that night, I saw and heard. It was a horrible miscommunication. It was noisy and busy and someone wasn’t using common sense, but it is not something we’ve heard about before, because it’s not their policy, it was an accident. Horrible, yes, but not common and not intentional.

  • Dee D.

    Ok, I was at the bar that night, I saw and heard. It was a horrible miscommunication. It was noisy and busy and someone wasn’t using common sense, but it is not something we’ve heard about before, because it’s not their policy, it was an accident. Horrible, yes, but not common and not intentional. F

    • Gloria Hunter

      Dee D. claim it was an “accident”. It was NO ACCIDENT…The owner himself admits he instructed his bartender not to serve unknown groups “including Polynesians”…so you know and I know and everyone know IT WAS NO ACCIDENT!!!

  • liberalssuck

    When people start caring about the knockout game where black scum knock out white people or racist comments by black panthers about killing white babies,I will start giving a shi* about trivial matters like this.”the bar must be closed down”-give me a freaking break.I am so sick of people finding racism under every rock.They made a mistake.get over it.When you become perfect in your life,then start casting stones.

    • Aaron Lynch

      How do you even know about the “knockout game?”

      Answer: because people do care and it went viral in the media and people were prosecuted for it.

      Your comment amounts to nothing more than willful ignorance, and using one random crime to justify another is just idiotic. Why can;t both things be bad? The bar’s racism and YOUR RACISM are both pretty bad. See how that works?

  • Elaine

    The owner put Polynesians, jailbirds & shady looking people in the same category. The bar breaking a state law is the least of the issues here. The fact that they perpetuate racism through ignorance & hate under the guise of a company policy is the bigger concern.

  • Kathy

    And that right business practice PREJUDICE will be the demise of WILLYS bet your bottom dollar pal!$hitty Bartender UNACCEPTABLE IF ANY HUMAN EVER ORDERED ME TO TELL SOMEONE SOME BS LIKE THIS..I WOULD SET HIM/her. UP FOR THE OKEY DOKE !!!AND UTILIZE RACE AND CREED CIVIL SUIT$$$$?? Why not ????? It could be OUR NEW Place IN HOOD…
    .FOLKS ARE REALLY GETTING TIRED OF PREJUDICE BIGOT PARASITES.EVEN JESUS !!!

    • dan

      First, parasite, learn the American language. I’m sure your I.Q. is a single digit. THE MAN OWNS THAT BAR. He can tell who he wishes to stay out. Unlike you trouble making worms, he WORKED for what he has, and has the right to protect it!!! Try to come into anything I own without my permission. You will not be happy!!!! Even a slug crawling around outside will attempt to leave where it’s not wanted. Does that say something about your species intelligents? no yam sayn??

  • Schlumpf

    Is there some reason the bar owner couldn’t just accept full responsibility for his racist policy? It’s against the law AND racist. No confusion there. Also, why is the news anchor covering for Cloyd by claiming he sounds sincerely “sorry”? He should never have had the policy in the first place, so whether he’s personally sorry or not, he’s broken the law and harmed other people.

  • labman57

    Policy makes as much sense as declaring a ban on serving left-handed people … unless you personally know them.
    Of course, conservative politicos strongly believe that businesses should have the right to refuse to serve anyone for any reason … Civil Rights Acts be damned.

  • dan

    GET THE HELL OUT OF MY COUNTRY. No one wants any of you here. We (white Americans) Don’t go to your countries, and start trouble. What the hell gives you the right to come to mine? That owner has every right to refuse service to any one he wishes. He worked to buy that bar, YOU DIDN’T!!! Every where any of you go,crime rates skyrocket. Just look at the prison population in MY country. If all of you parasites would go back where you belong, we could conservatively close 60% of the prisons in AMERICA. When we get a real President in office, your reign of whinning racist every time an AMERICAN looks at you wrong IS OVER!!!! LEAVE!!!!!

    • Urindenial

      Wow. That’s a moronic statement considering our white ancestors came here (to another country) and took it forcibly using immoral tactics, like biological warfare (e.g., disease laden blankets, etc.). You blind, racist Americans, with your short, ignorant memories always fall back on your, “get out of ‘our’ country,” BS. This isn’t your country. It’s OUR country. Our white ancestors were immigrants too. So STFU, if you don’t know what you’re talking about. And by the way, immigrants and slaves “physically” built more of this country’s infrastructure than white people, so if you don’t like it, go cry a river back in your ancestor’s country. Which is probably a socialist country or practices some form of it. Leave our democracy since you clearly don’t believe in it. I served this country to keep freedom and democracy alive for all Americans, not just the white ones.

    • Totheignoramus

      “We (white Americans) Don’t (sic) go to your countries, and start trouble.” That statement was so ignorant. White Americans went to Hawaii (a part of Polynesia), pretended to be allies, then let their greedy big businesses overthrow what was an allied nation. A treasonous act by American and International law, as well as being addressed by President Cleveland himself. But they were white business owners, so it’s okay, right? So, your people DID go to their country (as well as others) and started trouble. You and your point are not only ignorant, but moot as well.

    • Polynesian_Pacific

      Dan I think you don’t know where you came from.. you don’t belong there… you don’t know your history… soooo go dig out your own history where your ancestors came from…. you also mentioned that you white americans don’t go/come to our country… please…. many of the islands in the PAcific were left out with all the americans war stuff…. they just used our small island…. so STFU Dan. Ohh and thank you Dan about the crime rate raised whereever we go…. We don’t treat people differently like you or any white people come to our small nation nor even different races. Stop thinking that you people always do the right thing…. NO! you just only caused trouble Dan…. I hope that these 2 Polynesians sue this racist owner…. Do not judge the people because of their skin color or where they come from. Look them inside but not outside….. See yourself first than you can look @ others….

  • TLBUtah52

    Yes went looking for trouble and found it did they not? Just pull the race card and free ride starts…. Makes me sick how many people get away with breaking the law or making a law through race….What about working for and deserving what you get oh that only goes for the ones who have no card… Make that white guy pay he won’t mind since he has no choice or special card but he has a job….

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