The Moosehead Saloon in Columbia, South Carolina, is under fire after a former manager said he got fired because the owner thought the bar had become “too dark.”
Josh Sutton claims he received a text message in July from owner Matt Shmanske upset about a shift in the bar’s crowd
Shmanske allegedly griped that there were too many black patrons and employees at his bar, and decided his staff would need to be purged.
“He said (the bouncers) were all trash and didn’t work,” Sutton said. “He was like, ‘You don’t have the people in the bar that I want in the bar.’ I told him I’m not going to fire anybody because of their skin color. You’re going to have to fire me if you want that done.”
The State reports that at the time, between eight and 10 of the 12-15 bouncers were black, while three of the seven bartenders were black.
After Sutton was fired, he said, employees were forced to reapply to their jobs, and “at least two” of the black employees were asked to return, though at least one reportedly refused.
“I don’t see any reason I would have been let go,” former head bouncer Marcus Hughes told The State. “I wasn’t late. I did my job and made sure everything was done… There wasn’t any viable reason for Josh and everyone else to get fired.”
The sudden firing of staff wasn’t the only display of racism from the Moosehead.
Hughes claimed that Shmanske was upset by the frequent amount of hip-hop music played in the bar, while a patron said he was barred entry over a poorly enforced dress code.
Bargoer Malcolm Bevel told The State he was denied entry by a white bouncer who said his solid-colored T-shirt violated the bar’s dress code.
But Bevel also claims to have seen a white man exit the bar in a similarly-colored shirt.
“(I couldn’t enter because of) the color of my shirt but really it was the color of my skin,” he said. “My issue is not with the code but the equity of its application.”
News of Shmanske’s racist requests quickly went viral, and the business was flooded with negative reviews on Yelp and Facebook.
“Well openly hating black people is not a good way to run a business,” one user wrote. “The place had a smooth vibe and a nice mix of people. But the owner in his infinite wisdom decided to turn it into an exclusive, ‘We only want a certain kind of people here’ place…. This place is the worst.”
“I don’t want to a patron at a bar that purposefully turns away black people because of a ‘dress code’ but then lets in white people wearing the exact same thing,” another wrote.
Shmanske did not respond to multiple requests for comment by The State.
This type of discrimination happens more frequently than you’d think — even in stereotypically ‘progressive’ areas. The only way to combat it is to keep calling it out.