Bar sign mis-read goes viral

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

TAYLOR — Online posts regarding Beer Belly’s Bar & Grill had for several years called attention to its offerings of inexpensive drinks and a Thursday night steak special. Last week, however, a three-year-old sign posted outside of the bar — which stated a policy prohibiting motorcycle club emblems — was featured in a Facebook video that went viral.

“No colors allowed,” a common policy for bars that attract strong patronage from motorcycle riders, was instead described by one man on social media as a racial barrier.

“No colored people allowed,” the man’s voice narrates footage of Beer Belly’s, 25677 Van Born Road.

The video posted on Facebook spread quickly Tuesday, reposted on Twitter and elsewhere and viewed thousands of times. The initial response reportedly included the bar’s employees having received phone calls, threats and questions as to if discrimination was policy at the bar, where responding TV crews and reporters found a diverse group of customers.

By Thursday the aftermath included an equal if not greater number of supporters. The vast majority of online comments expressed surprise at the misinterpretation of a sign.

“Sad that you have to defend a sign that’s on tons of other bars,” one poster sympathized.

“I feel for you guys … this foolish post caught on and spread like wildfire,” wrote another.

“Even I know what that means,” said a man who’d been in “a lot of bars.”

Aaron Stevens, co-owner of Beer Belly’s with his father, installed the sign when they took over the business three years ago. On Wednesday Stevens told several reporters and TV crews that he’d seen many bars in the area with similar if not identical signs. The bar welcomes motorcycle riders, he said, but they didn’t want rival clubs mixing it up inside.

Stevens was unavailable for comment Thursday.

The man talking in the video references prejudice and warns people to be careful, saying, “… they’re going to lynch your ass if you’re darker than me.”

Stevens said he might try to personally reach out to the man.

“It puts a bad image on us, and I hope it doesn’t hurt our business,” he said.

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)

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