SALT LAKE CITY – A Salt Lake City bar owner has apologized after one of his employees refused to serve two Polynesian men because of their ethnicity.
Patron Frank Maea said he and a friend had just entered Willie's Lounge and ordered a drink when the bartender checked his ID and asked if he was Polynesian. When he confirmed that he was, she said she couldn't serve him.
"I have never been treated like that, never," Maea told Salt Lake City's KUTV.
Shocked, he took a short cellphone video and posted it online before he left.
"This is wrong. Should they be punished? Of course they should," he said. "We should not spend our hard earned dollars to go there."
Owner Geremy Cloyd didn't dispute the account in interviews with reporters on Wednesday but acknowledged it was a mistake.
He said he has an informal rule allowing female bartenders working alone at night to turn away people who look like they could make trouble, and acknowledged that he has included Polynesian people in that category.
"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."
Maea and friend Stephen Wily said that bars do have the right to refuse service to people making trouble, but they were calm and civil.
Cloyd told The Associated Press Thursday that he's planning on meeting with leaders of Salt Lake City's Polynesian community as he tries to repair the damage.
"Anyone that was offended, I will try to make it right. That's not representative of us," Cloyd told KSL-TV. "You can come in here every single day of the week and find every single race."
Maea said he'll accept Cloyd's apology, but doesn't plan on going back to Willie's.
The Salt Lake City area has a relatively large community of people of Polynesian descent. Originally drawn to Utah by Mormon missionaries in the 19th century, the state today has nearly 27,000 people who identify as being Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, census figures show. That's more than every state other than California, Hawaii and Washington.