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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah bar owner, accused of turning customers away because of their ethnicity, apologized Wednesday night.
Jeremy Cloyd, the owner of Willie's Lounge located at 1716 Main Street in Salt Lake City, said his employees made a serious mistake turning two bar patrons away Tuesday night.
Frank Maea said he and a friend were refused service when they tried to get a drink at the bar.
"I gave the bartender my ID and she looked up at me and said 'I can't serve Polynesians," Maea said. "And I was like, 'What? You can't?'"
Maea said he questioned the bartender, with witnesses standing by.
"So then I said, 'You have got to be kidding me, why?' So she didn't say and then she looked at me and said 'I could lose my job,'" Maea said.
The encounter lasted a couple minutes before the two men left the bar.
Wednesday morning patrons who witnessed the incident took to social media posting reviews on the Willie's Lounge Facebook page.
One post read, "Willie's likes to racially profile their patrons. They don't allow certain people of color into their establishment."
The restaurant responded and said, "Due to many issues we've had with certain groups of people we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone...We do everything we can to make sure our customers and employees are safe."
Maea said the exchange prompted him to post a video he took at the bar from the night before, which has been viewed thousands of times.
The Willie's Lounge owner did not deny it happened. Instead, he apologized for the incident.
"Anyone that was offended, I will try to make it right. That's not representative of us," Cloyd said. "You can come in here every single day of the week and find every single race."
Cloyd said he spoke to the bartender who made that remark and believes she said it because of a safety rule in place, when two female bartenders are working alone.
"They are directed by me, any massive groups of people, and granted two is not a group but it is a judgment call, whether it will be Polynesians, jailbirds, or anybody that is shady looking, do not serve," Cloyd said.
Cloyd said he will hold a training session for all of his employees to prevent an incident like this from happening again.