Yesterday, The Blaze reported on the alleged "banning" of a group of six conservatives from a Wisconsin bar because one was wearing a "Scott Walker My Hero" t-shirt.
As the event was described by the group, they arrived at the bar around 1am, showed their IDs, and were told to have a good time. Close to an hour-and-a-half later, as they were on their way out, the same bouncer who checked their IDs told them that because of the Scott Walker shirt, they were no longer welcome at the bar.
We noted yesterday that reports were unclear as to what exactly the bouncer said:
A woman named Joanna Langworthy, who was one of the six, wrote on her blog that 'the doorman said to never come back, due to wearing gear promoting Governor Scott Walker,' while Facebook and earlier reports suggest 'don’t come back here wearing that crap again' was the phrase employed. Others maintain the bouncer said, 'the next time you come here do not wear that shirt…my owner does not want that kind of stuff here.'
The group then publicized its interaction with the bar over Facebook, and it was picked up by local radio shows.
Though Rox Bar and Grille did not respond to The Blaze before the original article was published, they have since reached out to give their side of the story, even providing video evidence that may contradict some of the claims laid against them.
The bar tells its story
The bar is primarily run by four people: the two owners, Peter (58) and Dennis (62) Hronis who are immigrant brothers from Greece, their daughter, and their son-in-law, Dino Giacomantonio.
According to Giacomantonio, who was running the bar that night, the Scott Walker t-shirt was potentially offensive because the back read, "He's Got Nads." He maintains he just wanted to keep a welcoming and peaceful environment for everyone.
So, after he was informed of the political and potentially offensive nature of the shirt, he asked the security guard to discreetly pull the man aside on his way out to politely say, "the next time [you] come in, we would appreciate it if [you] did not wear a political or offensive shirt.”
Security footage of the interaction appears to show the security guard doing just that (although there is no audio and the two eventually walk outside):
When The Blaze asked the bar whether it was possible that the bouncer had political motivations of his own and did not act with the tact requested, Giacomantonio replied that it was highly unlikely. He described the bouncer, who is in his 60's, as being like "everybody's grandpa."
The phone started "ringing off the hook"
No one at the bar thought twice about the event until Sunday afternoon, according to Nathan Sass (a friend of the owners who was authorized to speak for the bar). The Blaze interviewed Sass late Tuesday, but Sass also wrote out the bar's version of events in a blog post:
The first knowledge the owners of Rox had of the subsequent controversy was when the phone began to ring repeatedly on Sunday afternoon, following a post on the Facebook page at 12:12 PM on Walker Backers Watching Walker Stalkers...alleging, falsely, that the bar had kicked out Walker supporters specifically and asked them never to return. The calls were primarily rude, vulgar, and in some cases contained veiled or outright threats against the bar and its owners.
The group of six did try to contact the bar for clarification, as they have said, but -- according to the bar -- only after the event had been related on the pro-Walker Facebook page. At that point, Giacomantonio said, the phone began "ringing off the hook" and they simply could not keep track of all the calls and continue running their business.
Having discovered that the issue had exploded onto the internet, the owners quickly attempted to address the situation by posting a response to the bar’s Facebook page. The statement was an attempt to explain the reasons for the decision to say something to Santo [who was wearing the shirt] regarding the political and potential offensive nature of his attire, and that the Rox Bar makes every effort to make all patrons feel welcomed, regardless of race, creed, color religion or political affiliation.
The statement garnered more than 500 comments in roughly 24 hours -- many of which were people vowing to never return to the family-run bar again, and committing to tell everyone they knew about what had happened. That was fueled partly by what the group of six wrote on the Walker Backers Watching Walker Stalkers page:
Since the owners of Rox refuse to apologize for the action of their employee, we have no other choice then [sic] to assume they approve of telling people after they spend their money, that they are not welcomed back. With that in mind we have no other choice than to make this story be known to the masses starting with the Jerry Bader Show.
The owners of Rox Bar and Grille repeatedly stated they are apolitical; they simply want to keep the bar a happy and comfortable place for everyone. They claim to be neither "pro-recall nor pro-Walker," and if anything, were only trying to avoid controversies like this in asking that politics not be brought in to the bar.
Giacomantonio, the son-in-law, told The Blaze: "Politics for me is nothing more than horrible...There's nothing enjoyable for me about it." He said that had he known how the event would explode and negatively impact his family's business, he never would have said anything.
"[They] put their faith in me to run this bar," he added.
How does the group of six respond?
So what does the group have to say about the bar's telling of events?
Langworthy wrote in an email to The Blaze: "The Rox Bar could have easily cleared up any alleged misunderstanding by replying to our private phone and email communication attempts. This did not happen." Similarly, Jeff wrote: "We stand by our facts. We are trying to move on. We have made a statement as such [on the 'Walker Backers' site]. The owners could have told us at anytime what they believed happened if they returned our phone calls."
The statement he's referring to was posted on Walker Backers Watching Walker Stalkers late Tuesday night, and seemed to be an attempt to calm the situation:
I would like to issue a statement regarding the Rox Bar and Grille situation from this past Saturday night. On behalf of all of us conservatives who were there, we would like to thank our fellow patriots for all of your support. It was amazing to see grassroots social media come to the aid of a conservative cause. I suspect your supportive actions will make people think twice before they try to play politics within their place of business.
We do believe that the time has come to put this behind both us and Rox’s. We personally never called for a boycott of the establishment; after all, being a supporter of Governor Walker also means you are a supporter of Capitalism and of small business. Our main focus was to get an honest explanation and an apology from somebody associated with Rox’s, and although we still have issues with their second statement, we believe it was at least an attempt to reach out. We accept their apology at this point in time, and we will cease in talking to the media or making any other negative comments about this situation or about the Rox Bar and Grille. We do this because at the end of the day we are all Wisconsinites and the key to our economic future is small business. As someone who has been in the service industry almost his entire life I understand the stresses of balancing the books of a small business. We want to wish Rox's the best of luck, and we hope our fellow conservatives in the area give them the benefit of the doubt and give the Rox Bar and Grille a second chance. Unlike the recall fanatics, we believe in giving people a chance to redeem themselves. [Emphasis added]
As for the owners of the bar? According to Sass, "The management is considering embracing politics in light of the circumstances in a constructive and entertaining manner going forward." They have also thanked the group for its statement late Tuesday night.
In the end, they say, they only wish to have their side "fairly presented," then move on and "get their reputation back."